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Part Three: How to Prove Exceptional Customer Service from Your Web Site Business

by Kim Krause Berg

I love bookstores. I love their rows and wall displays of knowledge and adventures waiting for me to find them. Sometimes I have to hunt for books because the bookstore forces me to work at it.

There's a silly little bookstore in a quaint town nearby that is so full of books that the owner no longer bothers to put them away or organize them with precision. You stroll into a room crammed with stacks of books on the floor, in all shapes and sizes. Nobody minds when you plop right down into what looks like a book fort, to curl up with whatever happens to be lying around that day.

If you want to prove you are customer service oriented there are many ways to do it without losing control of your website property. You won’t get in and out of that bookstore quickly and you may not find what you want. You may remember the experience, and you may hate it or love the odd-ness of it. Bookstores got the idea that people like to come in to read their books, and maybe that will lead to a sale. At first, I thought this was crazy.

I’m a book and magazine fanatic; the type who will pull from the back of a pile of magazines just to get to the one that nobody has touched or bent yet. At bookstores, I don’t want to read a book that was cracked open by somebody else. I want to be the first one to hold it, hear the creak of the binding as it meets its first human, and feel the brand new pages.

I got over some of that neurotic behavior when some big brand name bookstores placed chairs, benches and couches in their stores for reading. This was fun until they also introduced the Friday evening poetry reading or Saturday night band events inside the store. Add to this the coffee shop and pastry counter and you have a bookstore nightclub. If you want to read, you have to go back home to do it in a quiet environment.

Is this what customers want?

Perhaps. Amazon online is a bookstore where you can also buy everything from video games to shoes while you’re there. Every book page has “noise”, in the form of blogs, plogs, used books, wish list, recommendations, votes, excerpts, combination offers, baby registries, tags, and well, you get the idea. It’s not a quiet place to buy a book. It’s a carnival!

It works for them, but will it work for you and your online business?

How customer service oriented is your web site?

If you want to prove you are customer service oriented, there are many ways to do it without losing control of your website property. Online, despite the joys of wrestling with Amazon, most prospective customers want to be able to process your offers without pain.

The following are some ideas and suggestions you might apply to your own business and web site requirements.

Prove You Are Customer Service Oriented

Everyone wants to feel welcome and invited.

  1. Acknowledge your visitors exist by meeting their needs right away. This could be by providing direction, setting them on a path to complete a task, answering key questions and pointing to specials or new items.
  2. If sales are done by phone, make the phone number highly visible, rather than tucked in teeny text in the footer.
  3. Don’t require registration before permitting someone to add to their cart. Let them browse, change their mind, etc.
  4. Invite customer interaction via surveys, feedback forms, product reviews, testimonials, suggestions, guest articles, etc.
  5. If you provide something complicated, offer to take them on a tour or provide a demonstration.
  6. Listen to customers and find ways to encourage them to give you feedback. Try blog comments, product reviews written by them, invite email contact, acknowledge whenever a site enhancement was a customer suggestion.
  7. Travel or hotel website? Allow guests to submit stories. It provides proof someone bought that 4 day hike to Manchu Picchu. Selling Teepee’s? Invite customer experience pieces on how to set it up and what its like to live in one.
  8. If you offer promotional codes, make sure they are not hiding or placed in an awkward place in a series of steps.
  9. If you offer promotional codes, don’t wait until the last page of a shopping cart to introduce it. (It’s like a secret code then, that only special people were told about.) Add a little “What is this?” detail too, for the curious.

Offer Immediate Satisfaction

These actions help with decision-making and increasing conversions because they offer immediate satisfaction for the investigative customer.

  1. Offer a newsletter? Provide a sample, information on how often it arrives and what it’s about.
  2. Offer a magazine? Provide past cover shots, online subscription discounts, trials, columnist bio’s, 76tand links to previously published articles.
  3. Promote how long you have been in business. This indicates some success with customers and experience doing business.
  4. Offer a feedback form that asks specific questions such as “Did you find what you were looking for?”
  5. Make your contact information easy to find and easy to use.
  6. Offer free or limited time trials, downloads or lower pricing.
  7. Organize logically. Alphabetize dropdown menus. Display categories by known customer values like popularity, need or present publicity and hype.
  8. Let them create. For those who offer something that has to be assembled or where pre-orders are taken, allowing interactive methods like choosing colors, sizes, options, building supplies and styles shows that you know how your customers think and dream.
  9. Do not ask for phone numbers on any form without explaining what you plan on doing with it.
  10. Provide business hours and time zone, especially for customer service or online orders.

Offer After-Sale Thank You Gestures

People never forget friendly acts. They love feeling appreciated.

  1. Offer coupons. Mail or email them, stick printed ones inside the box, offer to email some to their friends and family.
  2. Celebrate customer loyalty by offering things like a personal shopping day with discounts, a family discount weekend, and bulk order sales options.
  3. Email confirmations of every sale and every contact with your online customer.
  4. Always warn a customer before they reach the end of a shopping cart that the time to print the receipt is NOW!
  5. Offer email notifications for sales, new products, etc. Make sure to indicate if they can unsubscribe, with no hassle, at any time.
  6. Link to their site. In some consulting or service situations, a way of saying “thanks” is to find a way to link back, like a list of clients, testimonials, or publishing a review.
  7. Invite proof that your product was special. For example, if you sell a unique product, invite customers to videotape it in use and offer incentive like a freebie item.
  8. Blog about a good experience with a customer. This communicates devotion to customer satisfaction.

Good communication is vital. Anticipate questions and provide answers at the precise spot where that question is most commonly asked while using your website. Customer satisfaction relies on comfort, ease of use, immediate response and thoughtful gestures. It’s a promise you make to your potential customers that says, “We will take great care of you at all times.”

Concern for Customer Experience

More and more emphasis is on customer experience, online persuasion and marketing techniques. Here are some pointers:

  1. Describe what will happen before each click. This is through a descriptive link label, anchor text, or additional instructions placed nearby.
  2. Offer assurances that an action can be changed later.
  3. Make font sizes readable or adjustable.
  4. Make links obvious with either underlines or hover changes.
  5. Provide price comparison charts.
  6. Provide product comparison charts.
  7. Enable tasks for your different customers’ missions, such as searchers, browsers, comparison shoppers, buyers, referrers, and those who want to remember your site.
  8. Design paths of least resistance to sales, contact, company history, order tracking, and customer feedback.
  9. Provide the best times to call you and if it fits, the name of the customer service or account representative.
  10. Offer live help or notification when representatives are on duty.

Obviously, you can’t please everyone. Communicating warmth, attentiveness and pride in your offers are a good start, however. Sometimes design and layout simplicity and acts of kindness make customers feel wanted and respected. These considerate gestures may lead to improved sales because you’ve provided the positive experience they hoped to receive.

Discuss this in our Forum

About the Author:

Kim Krause Berg offers a variety of web site improvement services, at pleasantly affordable prices, as well as Partnership opportunties with your web design or SEO/M firm. You're welcome to learn how easy it is to work with Kim and her flexible usability services.

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