Online Customer Service - The Cornerstone of a Successful Online Business
Online customer service is still one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of running a successful online business. Yet, in the highly competitive world of Internet business, it could be (and should be) the one thing that sets you apart from your competition!
Most Internet businesses that have a drive to succeed focus all of their time and resources on building a great site, and then trying to drive tons of traffic to that site. Honestly, these are two incredibly important factors for success. After all, a site won't be successful without tons of new potential customers hitting it, and you want that site to convey a professional image of your business by its appearance and ease-of-use. However, you must keep in mind that you are operating in a highly-competitive environment. You probably already know that there are tens, if not hundreds, of other businesses that offer the same basic goods and/or services that you do! They are battling you for the same exact keywords, and constantly enhancing their site to make their visitors' experience better than yours.
So, how are you going to differentiate yourself from your competition? What is going to set you apart? What is going to help you get, and keep, more customers? The answer lies in the online customer service that you provide! Before I get into how to provide excellent online customer service, let me explain why providing online customer service is so important.
On the Internet, customer loyalty is incredibly difficult to obtain unless your site is associated with a popular retail store (e.g. Walmart.com, BestBuy.com), or has developed a successful reputation and goodwill over a long period of time (e.g. Amazon.com). The fact is, Internet customers are much more likely to shop around from site-to-site because it is so EASY. In the brick-and-mortar world, shopping around for an item means getting in the car and driving from store to store, not to mention, parking at each location, and then going in to find the item. That sounds like an entire afternoon project, just to purchase one item! That is why most people don't do that, especially for a low cost item. They develop loyalty to one store for a variety of reasons that matter to them, and they buy the item almost exclusively from that store. Think about your personal life. Don't you usually buy groceries from the same store week after week because it is easier than going somewhere else and having to learn where all your favorite items are located?
The Internet works very different. I can wake up in the morning, and before I finish breakfast I can browse the top ten sites listed on Google for the item I'm looking for. Its so easy to shop around! I don't know anything about any of those sites so how do I decide which to buy from? Sure, I'm looking for the best price, and I also want a site that looks credible so I don't perceive that I may get ripped off. That may narrow my list from ten to five sites. They all offer my item at about the same price, they all have professional looking sites with easy-to-use shopping carts, and I found them all in the top ten search results on Google! By common Internet business logic they're all doing it RIGHT! But, only one will get my business today. And who's to say that even if I have the best experience possible with the one I choose, that I'd ever buy from them again. Remember, it's so easy to shop around, and there are still several other good-looking companies that offer similar items.
The difference is in the customer service. That is the one way that a website can set itself apart in this competitive world. It can take the best website, full of stylish graphics and rich content, and make it more than an image on a computer monitor. It can give it a personal touch. Its that personal touch that will differentiate yourself from your competition. Potential customers will want to buy from you, and customers will want to keep coming back. They know you... and you know them. Your business has become more than just an image on a screen to them.
So, how do you provide great online customer service?
Traditional wisdom says to include your telephone number and email address on your site in highly visible locations. Unfortunately, doing just that doesn't go far enough, and probably will only offer minimal benefits. To call you, a dial-up user may actually have to log off your site just to get in touch with you, and you're trying to keep them on your site! Even with a high-speed connection, a phone call may not be the most convenient thing to do, especially if you don't have a toll-free number. And if you do, phone calls are costing you a lot of money! With email, your customers can contact you, but how long will they have to wait for a response--an hour, several hours, a day, a week? You may have a great policy about quick follow-up, but do your customers know that? They just sent you an email and they don't know when they'll hear back... if ever. Plus, posting your email on your site opens you up to getting tons of spam.
So, what's better than telephone and email? Here are three tools that can increase your sales, build your customer loyalty and retention, and save you money.
1. LIVE CHAT: Putting a live chat system on your website will have incredible benefits. Picture a potential customer browsing your site and having a question about placing an order. Again, we've discussed that phone and email aren't the best solution for this scenario. Now, picture having a large, noticable live chat button right there on your site. The visitor clicks it, enters their name and question, and they are IMMEDIATELY connected to you or one of your employees. Now, you know who they are, and they know who you are--you're beginning to develop that personal relationship we talked about. You can help them with their order, answer any questions they might have, or upsell them to a different product. All this, and they never left your website. Next time they need something, there's a good chance they'll want to come back to your site and talk to you again.
2. KNOWLEDGE DATABASE: A knowledge database is a collection of self-help articles that a customer can search through to find answers to their questions. Let's face it, as easy as you make your website to navigate and use, you'll still have people that have questions, problems, or concerns. With a knowledge database, the customers can quickly and easily browse for answers to their questions, and get help quickly and effectively. Its like FAQs, only turned up a notch.
3. TICKET SYSTEM: Using a ticket system is the best way to support current customers, and to answer questions from potential customers. A customer or potential customer creates a ticket and submits it to your company. Your company receives the ticket and can route it to the appropriate person or department for follow-up. It is quick and easy, and the customer gets an answer from the most qualified source at your company for the problem they had. Tickets also allow you to track your customers to get to know them better, and track your issues to find out what you could be doing better. Tickets are far more organized, secure, and useful than email--both for the company and the customer.
Search engine optimization and site design are important. But you're operating in a highly competitive environment, and you need something more to set your business apart. Something to make your website more than just a simple collection of graphics and content on a screen. You need a personal relationship with people viewing your site. The kind of relationship that will create new sales, and encourage repeat purchases. This can be acheived through effective online customer service.
Please feel free to reprint this article so long as you include the resource box listed with the article.
Dan Cavanaugh is the Senior Marketing Director for CSLive, a fully integrated and affordable online customer service system, featuring live customer chat, a ticket system, knowledge database, live web meetings, internal messaging, and much more. To find out how easy and affordable it can be to provide great customer service on your website, click here: http://www.CSLive.com
Add to these social bookmarking sites:
NewWave Biosciences Chooses Aero Fulfillment for e-Commerce Distribution of ... - San Francisco Chronicle (press release)
Notice: Undefined index: TITLE in /var/www/vhosts/harmonyhollow.net/httpdocs/webmaster-resources/ecommerce/inc/rss.inc on line 103
How To Accept Credit Cards Without a Merchant Account
To increase sales on your website, you must accept credit cards. To process credit cards, you could apply for a merchant account through your bank or other financial institution.
ECommerce Scenario in Pakistan
Pakistan with highest growth rates in 1960s and bad politics in 1980s and 90s but, the stage is totally changed in 2000s as the economy is managed by those who once run the most successful Global Financial Houses. Today Pakistan has achieved 8.
Working With Drop Shippers
Drop Shippers, the manufacturers or distributors who are willing to ship their products to your customers, bring a powerful benefit to ecommerce. Online businesses that engage in the wholesale-retail trade can cut down on all the hassles of shipping their products by simply establishing business relationships with drop shippers, and using them as part of their business model.
What Does It Take to Make Money Online?
What a loaded question! Let's narrow that down a bit and take it from the perspective of someone who wants to work from home and make money online in a home business. That will make it an easier question to answer.
The Plain Man's Guide to Making Money Online
I'm a plain man who uses plain thinking in devising strategies for making money online.I do not spend obscene mounts of money attending high ticket web conferences nor do I rush to purchase the latest collection of web casts at outrageous prices.
Why Our Site Was Removed From The ODP
Our website, Best Of The Home, has been listed in the Open Directory Project for over a year. Recently, I conducted a search of the ODP for my site, to update it, and found that it was no longer listed in any category.
The House Of Print.Com
Publishing has always been a difficult business to promote successfully, which titles by which authors to promote, which genre, will it be fiction or non-fiction? Will they sell? Will they make money, both for the publisher and for the author? So many questions which there is no definitive answer and so the publisher takes a chance with his money and his time and resources and decides on which books to publish, promote and distribute to the bookshops. He may only distribute to bookshops in his own country and if they don't sell well enough, will not be seen by anyone else in the world.
7 Questions to Ask A Potential Internet Merchant Account Provider
Recently I went looking for an online merchant account, with disastrous results. I made the mistake of taking information at face value and relying on the ecommerce merchant account provider's good reputation in other areas.
10 Second Internet Person, sound familiar?
Some people do not understand the Internet idea of online commerce, but then again some people do not understand themselves either. To fully understand Internet Commerce you really only need to monitor your "clicking habits" for a few days to see where you are going and what if anything you are buying.
Keep Your Customers Happy by Organizing Your Payment Options
Anyone using a slow, or an awkward payment processor had better wake up!There are some very slick ways to transfer money around the globe, in todays, lightning fast world, both your customers and your suppliers demand payment in the click of a mouse.The processing companies have been fiercely competing with each other for years now, every so often, they revamp and recalibrate.
A Beginners Guide To Setting Up A Successful Online Store
A beginner's guide to setting up a successful online store Online selling is by no means a simple task. To sell products online not only requires making use of high end marketing strategies but also involves lots of planning.
The Clickbank Crash of 2003: Lessons Learned
I had a rude awakening recently. I checked the days worth of sales from one of my sites and there were none.
Three years ago I was doing some work for a local university helping to redesign an internal website they wanted updated and made more user friendly. When the job was done the person I was doing the job for wanted to use his school issued credit card to pay for my services.
E-Commerce Is Back On The Fast Track
How much holiday shopping did you do on-line this year? If you are reading this, then chances are good that you made at least one purchase on-line. Over 54% of all Americans did it .
Shopping Online: What You Should Know
For some people, shopping online is as normal as driving a car. It's become part of the norm.
Shopping Carts For The Faint Of Heart
The chief criteria for judging an ecommerce shopping cart are the number of credit card processors and shipping services it supports, and the number of people that support *it*.Why? Because credit card processors and shipping services mutate all the time.
Selling Globally Through a B2B Exchange
Participation in B2B Exchanges is increasingly becoming one of the fastest growing marketing methods for businesses looking for augmenting their client base beyond their local markets. Any good B2B Exchange offers direct contact with thousands of prospective buyers in a single location.
Top Ten Qualities to Look for in an Online Pharmacy
As you may have noted, there are thousands or even hundreds of thousands of websites selling pharmaceutical products or drugs. These are called ONLINE PHARMACIES or PHARMACIES ONLINE.
Something new in e-commerce: the Echo System Build
How four partners build and manage an exclusive art posters web site by emulating the way the echo works. Imagine a top-notch photographer, some demanding visitors and an e-commerce site that wants to make money.
The Internet and Customer Care: Aid or Anarchy?
It was reported in 'Marketing' magazine this month, that Britain is becoming a "disaffected nation", with each adult apparently making an average of 12 complaints to service providers each year, based on a "Service in Britain" survey by ASR (Andrew Smith Research). In response to the rise of the 'assertive consumer', brands are endeavouring to make sure 'good customer service' is a recognisable characteristic in the form of testimonials, efficient call centre responses and empowering staff throughout the company to resolve problems.
|Home | Site Map|