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July 26th, 2007 | Yahoo Store Tips


Customer Service will Make (or Break) your Site

Posted on July 26th, 2007 by cwsnews

Just last week, I wrote two online retailers an email about their products. I had a few simple questions about their products that I couldn’t find the answers to online. Their individual responses made me realize that I needed to write about this, because their service drove me to purchase (or not purchase) from them.

Here is email number one. I had a question about a patio table and the description online was not as complete as I would have preferred.

“I’ve got a question about the Monico Manor Dining Table and Chair Set. As far as I can tell, the tiles on this table can be removed. Is that correct? Are the tiles on this table 12 x 12 tiles?

Thanks so much for your time.

Matt Sampson”

Now, this is the response I got back from this company:

“Dear Matt Sampson,

Right now, all of the information we have about the patio furniture
is right on the product description page. I know that it can be
difficult to figure out what you want to order without more
information, and I’m sorry if we’ve let you down.

Your comments are a big help to us, and I’ll make sure to share them
with our team that works with our product information.

Thanks for getting in touch with us. I hope you’ll visit us again
soon.

Best regards,

jason j.”

OK, so this email was nice in the fact that they admitted they have a problem. But in reality, I don’t really care how “nice” they are, I just wanted an answer before I purchased an $800 table set and paid $200 to ship it to me. So yes, they were pleasant and nice, but I certainly didn’t get the table from them.

So what could they have done?

1) Find the answer. There must be a warehouse they could call to get the answer for me. Unfortunately, it was easier to just tell me they didn’t know. Well, it was easier for me not to order. The funny thing is that I ended up calling one of their retail stores and found the answer to my question. Why could customer service not have done that for me?

2) Tell me they’d follow up with me in a few days. Ok, so maybe the warehouse was closed. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. So, send me an email letting me know that they did not know the answer YET, but that they would find out for me in the next week.

3) Actually tell the product description writers and have them update the description. I’ve checked that description a number of times over the last few weeks and it hasn’t changed. I know it takes time, but if they really want to provide good service, they would update their description for future customers.

Those are just a few suggestions; there are many more things that could have been done as well. They could have sent me a coupon code telling me that they are sorry for not having enough information, but here’s a code to get a discount on a future purchase. Suggest I call a store to find out. Anything would have been nicer than, “We’re sorry we’ve let you down. Please visit us again!”

Now, here is an example of an email interaction that led me to purchase.

“Hello – I just wanted to find out how easy it is to replace the bulb in these lamps, what kind of bulb it is, approx how long the plug is and how you turn it on and off.

Thanks so much!

Matt”

And here’s the reply that should be a model to all online businesses:

“Hi Matt,

Thank you for your e-mail. The light bulbs in our lamps are easy to replace. You simply squeeze two metal prongs together and pull the bulb assembly out. The bulb wattage is typically 15 watts (you can use up to 40 watts for the massive size). This is the same size as a night light, and uses a candelabra base. The cord is 6 feet in length, and has an on/off switch on the cord. I hope this answers your questions, and we thank you for visiting our website.

Best regards,

Sales Department”

See the difference here? Not only did they answer every one of my questions, but they elaborated on them to make sure it was clear and concise. This is the kind of response that led me to make a purchase.

So what’s my point with all of this?

If you’ve got competition, you should always assume that they are doing a better job than you. It’s like playing blackjack in Vegas. The dealers’ hidden card is always a 10. If you have this kind of mentality with your customer service staff, or yourself if you’re a one person operation, you’ll always provide the best service possible. Remember, even though some customers will be short in their emails to you, this isn’t rude or impersonal. They just want an answer. You should always write back to them in clear, full sentences and make sure that they are getting the answer to ALL of their questions. These are your customers, without them, you don’t have a business. Treat them like gold and it will pay off.

The same principals apply to your phone operators. They should be as professional and personal as possible. We’ve all talked to impersonal and scripted phone banks and it doesn’t feel good. Talk to your customers like they are respected friends. This will almost always lead to a sale, and probably a life long customer.

In regards to phone operators, many companies are tempted to outsource their phone support. It’s easy, there’s no management to worry about. The benefits are plenty, but what about the negative impact? With a phone bank call center, it’s virtually impossible to give the service that makes you a top tier retailer. If you’re a household name you can get away with it. We almost expect poor service from the big box stores. But why create that feeling with YOUR customers? Call Center staff’s can not be expected to know your product inside and out, it’s not reasonable. So what happens when someone calls to find out what size the tiles are on the table they want to buy and they don’t have that info written down? The customer doesn’t get the answer.

Now, I’m not saying that all Call Centers are a bad idea. If it’s substantially more economical, or if your businesses size is no longer able to handle the call volume, by all means look into a Call Center. Be careful though. Really think about the impact on your customers. It may be cheaper, but how many customers will you end up losing? What information will you be missing out on by not speaking directly with your customers? These are all points to consider.

This leads me to my third and final point. Listen to your customers. If you’ve got questions that are getting asked on a regular basis, there’s a reason for that. Your information online is not as complete as it should be. What would happen if you updated your content to answer common questions online? You’ll get fewer phone calls. And I’m not only talking about product descriptions here. This can apply to your customer service and help sections as well. I used to manage the website for a multi-million dollar online retailer and we updated our customer service section monthly. During our staff meetings, we would talk about the questions that people were calling about, talk about policies or wording that confused customers and then immediately update them online. Your website is never complete and DON’T EVER THINK IT IS. It will evolve constantly and you should embrace those changes and really work hard at giving the customers what they most need – complete information.

Good luck to you all.

Matt Sampson
http://www.ColoradoWebSolutions.com

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