Customer service is increasingly seen as one of most valuable uses for a commercial World Wide Web site. Your Web site is available on a 24 hour, seven days a week basis. So it is well worth exploring ways in which your customers can virtually "serve themselves," without need for overtime staff, or lengthy voice mail procedures.
James Feldman is President of JFA, Inc., an online business offering high quality and unique gift items including automatic watch winders, Grundig shortwave pocket radios, and nitroglycerine pill fobs. The JFA Web site has been online since 1997, and has doubled its income every year - it's now a multi-million dollar e-commerce enterprise.
Jim, who's also a professional speaker and expert on customer service, highlighted for me how online buying experience differs from bricks-and-mortar model.
Buying online eliminates physical presence and personality of salesperson from process. This makes Web site copy critical in creating a one-to-one relationship with customer or prospect.
Which echoes one of my favorite mantras:
Every page of your site should be written from visitor's point of view, not yours.
A visitor should be able to look at your offerings, and immediately answer questions:
"Why me?" - that is, is your Web site right place for me? "Why should I care?" - does this copy convince me that you can meet my needs?
It's much easier and immediate to jump from Web site to Web site than to move between real-world stores. So visitor has far more freedom of choice online. Jim says that challenge for customer service is therefore very clearly to focus on one customer, one purchase at a time. E-customers expect great service, with little or no direct interaction. They will tolerate some mistakes, but not many.
Jim offers five rules for effective online customer service:
1. Be accessible. Show very clearly on your site all ways that your customer can contact you - including e-mail, phone and fax numbers, and your office hours.
And, if it's practical for your business, be personal - give your visitors a real person to call who has a name, as opposed to firstname.lastname@example.org