The online customer experience is every bit as important as the in-person experience.  Your website must deliver, or at least convey, the feeling of customer service.

 

STELLAService understands the importance of online customer service and may be the first and only company dedicated to publishing objective, in-depth ratings on the customer service performance of online businesses.  Just last month, they released a study which concluded that great online customer service is worth a staggering $17.3 billion in the United States.

 

Here’s the important part: They also uncovered that online shoppers are willing to pay almost 11% more than they otherwise would if it meant they would receive great customer service, which further validates the power of service as a differentiator.

 

I was thrilled to be asked to be a member of STELLAService’s Advisory Council, working with them to continue refining and exploring the meaning of great online customer service. Using a comprehensive methodology, STELLAService employs analysts to collect customer service performance data through a variety of secret shopping techniques. They measure everything from a company’s speed of delivery and helpfulness of their service representatives, to ease of returns, etc. This invaluable data can be used by consumers to make more informed online purchasing decisions and by companies to obtain crucial business and industry intelligence.

 

STELLAService also recently released its first customer service rankings for the country’s largest 150 Internet retailers, in which they identified eleven companies as providers of “elite” customer service. Zappos.com and Diapers.com earned the top two spots overall and were awarded the STELLAService Seal, which can be found on the footer of any their pages.

 

“E-commerce can no longer be thought of as a retail business,” says John Ernsberger, co-founder and COO. “Rather, it has evolved into a service business as a new breed of online commerce has emerged – one that is obsessed with pleasing its customers.”  I agree with John, and with online sales still just a fraction of the total retail market, I can’t help but think that online businesses have a tremendous opportunity to differentiate themselves by creating a truly outstanding customer experience.

 

How can you improve your online customer service?  Here are five ways:

 

1. Display a phone number at the top of the page.

2. Speedy product delivery time.

3. An easy return policy that includes self-addressed labels with each delivered package.

4. Friendly and informed customer service reps that are easy to reach with minimal wait times.

5. A keyword search box that also includes non-product related terms such as “overnight delivery” and “return policy.”

 

Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations.  As a professional speaker and author, Shep helps companies develop loyal relationships with their customers and employees.  For more information on Shep’s speaking programs and books, please contact (314) 692-2200. Email: shep@hyken.com  Web: www.hyken.com. For information on customer service training, go to www.TheCustomerFocus.com.

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