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The internet takes a business's marketing potential to a global level, with its interactive nature unique to this media. The web, email, and wireless technologies bring together creative and technical aspects of design, development, advertising and sales far more effectively than call center or retail models. By the same token, the potential for value-added customer service truly is unlimited.
Since a company's website is, in effect, its "24/7 store," making the customer happy starts with the set-up. Here are some basics for designing a consumer-friendly web venue:
An onsite resource center is another tool for boosting consumer satisfaction in a hurry.
For example, a jewelry-supply web venue might feature links to free necklace and bracelet patterns, gem identification, wire gauge information, current precious metal prices, a "frequently asked question" section, art and design schools, and precious gem grading information.
Social media serves as an umbrella term for a range of online tools and networks that promote personal interaction and further offers plentiful customer service options. Here are some benefits:
There are drawbacks, though. An effective social networking strategy requires time and consistency. Posting comments or photos every now and then isn’t enough. To reap the full benefit, you must develop the discipline to post and update on a consistent basis.
Also, keep in mind that a careless remark or reference potentially can reach thousands of existing and would-be customers. To this end, give plenty of thought to what you communicate.
Managing Customer Relations: Software Made for the Job
With so many software packages on the market, designing a website today is much easier than in the past. Whether making it a do-it-yourself job or hiring a professional, "must have" software for any internet venue is a Customer Relations Management (CRM) system or similar package.
CRM technology connects different players within the organization and the customer base, thus solidifying consumer satisfaction processes and increasing goodwill. Data gathered on the customer through site registration, questionnaires, and sales transactions can help determine whether the online vendor-customer relationship is growing or stagnant.
As with brick and mortar stores, CRM technology enables and expedites direct customer contact (as appropriate), automated emails, automatic emails regarding sales and specials, and various two-way exchanges.
When questions or complaints arise, CRM software can address the situation appropriately the first time around. A good CRM product allows online vendors to:
Prices for CRM products, including online services such as Salesforce, vary widely, so it's a good idea to do your homework before committing to a product. Higher-end systems typically provide round-the-clock and online support, as well as routine upgrades.
Web Refunds: The Contented Cyber-Shopper
Web retailers face a peculiar dilemma in addressing refunds. Unlike their real-life storefront and call center cousins, they are not dealing with voices or faces. Their customers, rather, are shadowy silhouettes, tapping away at phantom devices.
For this reason, a clear, detailed refund policy identifying specific return criteria must be part of the initial ordering process. Cyber-customers should not have to search for this information. Rather, a "return policy" button should be posted on the shopping cart, catalog, and home pages, as well as in "check-out" sections.
A serviceable internet refund policy will pretty much mirror brick and mortar and call center models. Conditions may include:
Treat your return policy as part of your service recovery strategy, a systematic process of restoring dissatisfied customers to a state of satisfaction with your business. For instance, compensate for any inconvenience customers might experience by offering "no-questions-asked" returns, free shipping for returns and an offer of coupons and discounts on future purchases. A follow-up letter or phone call likewise does a lot to strengthen an internet firm's connection with its customers, especially after an unsatisfactory transaction.