Is Your On-Line Business Customer Friendly?
by Philippa Gamse
Customer service is increasingly seen as one of the most valuable uses for a commercial World Wide Web site. Your Web site is available on a 24 hour, seven days a week basis. So it is well worth exploring ways in which your customers can virtually "serve themselves," without the need for overtime staff, or lengthy voice mail procedures.
James Feldman is President of JFA, Inc., an online business offering high quality and unique gift items including automatic watch winders, Grundig shortwave pocket radios, and nitroglycerine pill fobs. The JFA Web site has been online since 1997, and has doubled its income every year - it's now a multi-million dollar e-commerce enterprise.
Jim, who's also a professional speaker and expert on customer service, highlighted for me how the online buying experience differs from the bricks-and-mortar model.
Buying online eliminates the physical presence and personality of the salesperson from the process. This makes the Web site copy critical in creating a one-to-one relationship with the customer or prospect.
Which echoes one of my favorite mantras:
Every page of your site should be written from the visitor's point of view, not yours.
A visitor should be able to look at your offerings, and immediately answer the questions:
"Why me?" - that is, is your Web site the right place for me?
"Why should I care?" - does this copy convince me that you can meet my needs?
It's much easier and immediate to jump from Web site to Web site than to move between real-world stores. So the visitor has far more freedom of choice online. Jim says that the challenge for customer service is therefore very clearly to focus on one customer, one purchase at a time. E-customers expect great service, with little or no direct interaction. They will tolerate some mistakes, but not many.
Jim offers five rules for effective online customer service:
If you can get the customer service aspects of your business working well, there'll be a definite bottom line impact. Jim is quite clear that his business has grown substantially through repeat business and referrals from satisfied customers.
And in contrast, we can see the impact of poor customer service and fulfillment procedures in many of the dot.coms that are currently failing. Jim says that people buy things online in the expectation of getting something more valuable than the actual money they spend.
Does your Web site do this??
Philippa Gamse, 1998-2003. All rights reserved.
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