We’ve all come across those Web-based businesses that go out of their way to make sure they remain completely anonymous and unreachable, posting “Frequently Asked Questions” in an attempt to never have to communicate with their visitors.
Then there are those outfits with phone numbers that lead to an endless stream of voice mail options with no end in sight. While some companies infuriate potential customers by driving a wedge between themselves and their customers, a growing number of online businesses are now making a concerted effort to serve the public with easy-to-reach help (online or by phone), customer surveys, and follow-ups.
In an age of declining face-to-face business encounters, it behooves companies to streamline their online customer relations strategies in an effort to maintain the relationships that translate into profits, especially in an economic recession.
To properly strategize and maintain a high level of customer service, you need to evaluate your customer activities. For example, if your business books vacations online, you will want to see how many return visits customers need before making a selection. Typically, with high-end items, visitors will not make a purchase on their first visit but will look around and compare information. Is your business able to provide answers while the customer is shopping? Is there someone who can handle this middle step, rather than trying to hustle visitors to the shopping cart? It is very likely that the business that provides the most information and assurance will be the one the customer chooses, and you can increase your odds of winning that customer by providing such service.
Make It Easy
It is essential that the modern e-commerce site be transparent and easy to contact. Thanks to identity thieves and some less than honorable e-merchandisers, the consumer trust level in online businesses has not grown significantly in the past decade, with the exception of a few major Web establishments. Online extensions of brick-and-mortar businesses have an upper hand over the vast majority of e-tailers because consumers know they can walk into their nearby store location and get answers and solutions if they are not available online. However, this should not be the strategy of the business owner.
In short, to build strong customer relations for your Web site, or the Web arm of your brick-and-mortar business, you need to do the following:
- Understand the needs and purchasing habits of your customers.
- Never assume that you have all of their questions answered on your Web site.
- Be transparent.
- Always have some means of reaching a human being.
- Respond to all e-mail and phone inquiries within 48 hours.
- Take responsibility and try to resolve all conflicts in a timely manner.
Conflicts, complaints, and problems are part of every business. The companies that will survive poor economic times are those that have a conflict-resolution strategy in place. This need not be elaborate. It is a matter of training your staff in how to take on a problem, seek out answers, and never quote “policy,” avoiding the problem or simply shifting it to another department. Communication is also important, even in cases where you need to get lawyers, insurance agents, or outside suppliers involved. It is your responsibility to maintain contact with the customer throughout the process.