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eCommerce Customer Service

by Ron Kurtus (21 July 2007)

Customer service is the special service given during and after a sale, intended to guarantee a satisfied customer.

Although the product you sell through e-commerce may completely satisfy your customer, the extra service you give will often determine whether you get repeat and referral business. Poor or nonexistent customer service can result in negative word-of-mouth advertising that will turn people away from your business.

Customer service methods include providing purchasing information and assistance, a thank-you note after a sale, and a follow-up help desk.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.



Purchasing information

Many companies involved in e-commerce will provide assistance in making a purchase as a special service. This is usually done though a human sales representative, either on the phone or through email.

For example, although Dell computers would prefer you to buy a computer completely through an online transaction, they also have courteous sales representative that will answer questions and provide assistance.

Providing this type of help can result in extra expenses, but it does assure a sale. The downside is that sometimes people who need help in making an online purchase are also the ones that call in for help in using whatever it is they bought.

Follow-up letters

When you buy something online, you appreciate getting an email confirmation of your sale, summary of the invoice and a note of thanks. This is especially desired for a large ticket item or something that must be shipped. Since the purchase is all electronic or online, it is very simple to automatically send such as email.

What is surprising is that many businesses selling downloadable software do not bother with a thank you note. This is especially true of small e-commerce businesses. Perhaps they feel that because they only are selling a single product, that they don't need to create good will. They are missing out on an opportunity to get referral business.

For items that are being shipped, allowing the customer to track the shipment increases their confidence in your e-commerce business. Your follow-up letter should provide links to this service.

Help-desk

Having a help desk or customer service capability to answer follow-up questions can be useful to a company in maintaining customer satisfaction. Ideally, the product that is mailed or downloaded should have very clear instruction on how to install and use it. But still, there are customers that can't follow directions and want some human to help them.

This form of customer service can be expensive for an e-commerce business. The saying is that 20% of the customers result in 80% of the calls for help. You should try to eliminate these calls by either setting a limit on them or by improving your documentation.

Dell Computers is one of many companies that outsourced their after-sales assistance to India and other countries where the wages were much lower than in the United States.

This cost-saving move on customer service has backfired. Many reviews of Dell products said the product was good, but the customer service was so poor that the customer could not recommend buying from them. Since this type of information is online, it can be devastating to sales or the reputation of the company.

Note that I am not picking on Dell, but the company serves as a good example.

Summary

Customer service is the special service given during and after a sale, intended to guarantee a satisfied customer. This extra service can often help you get repeat and referral business, while poor or nonexistent customer service can turn people away from your business.

Customer service methods include providing purchasing information and assistance, a thank-you note after a sale, and a follow-up help desk.


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Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

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Top-rated books about Online Business

Top-rated books about eCommerce


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