Are you Serving your E-customers Well?

“Customer service is the new marketing.” – Derek Sivers

The quote holds true even for e-business and E-customers. It is vital to harness the potential of the opportunities that exist in the e-world and companies that have mastered the art of tailoring their products and customer service to ‘fit’ the e-customers will be successful in online business as well. Even in the e-world, it has now been established beyond doubt that customer focus supreme and for any company to gain and retain e-customers the balance of power just has to tilt towards and remain with the customer. Companies are falling over each other trying to please the e-customers, with offers and sops which were unheard of till even recently. The offers range from tempting to outrageously generous – not that the e-customers are complaining! The pace is fast and ever changing and business to business space is shrinking rapidly as companies join hands to offer common products and services to their customers. Companies are realizing that it is quite impossible to service the customers single-handedly and hence are joining hands to source the products that e-customers seek.

Building and sustaining e-customer relationships is a lot harder since there is virtually no human interaction and a company’s success is determined by their ability to store, collate and act on the customer data. It is through the analysis of this data that companies can entice e-customers with more personalized products, offers and discounts. The fact is that providing loyalty cards for instance for use in the future will not serve to get e-customers back to shop. The online experience will be more fruitful only if the online stores can place before the e-customers offers and products that match their recent purchases. It may be harder to build e-customer relationships but the opportunity to do so is immense and allows companies to take their relationships with customers to a completely new and high level. This platform is not about pleasing the e-customers only to gain loyalty, it is about making personalization a given. And it is possible, since before actually making a purchase a customer will probably check a number of options, thereby leaving a trail of data which can be extremely useful to companies in understanding the e-customers buying behaviour, if only they would overcome the challenges of actually analysing this data.

If your company is keen on serving its e-customers well, it must be realized that the relationships with such customers depends solely on technology. There is no other means of communication and no human interaction that can help to sort out any issues that might hamper the smooth functioning of this service. When e-customers face issues like being unable to find what they are looking for, or inability navigating the pages, slow billing or billing not working at all and other such hiccups but are unable to immediately resolve them. These issues would crop up if the systems are not properly integrated leaving the e-customers frustrated and ultimately damaging the relationship between you and them. The fact is if this happens in the first online interaction with your company, you can be sure that the customer will fail to return, going rather to a website that is properly supported and integrated. If the start of the brand connection is flawed, e-customers are unlikely to take the trouble to or make an effort to try again or call up the company letting them know of the issues. So unless your online technology works flawlessly, you can say goodbye to your e-customers.

E-customers and businesses have a different kind of relationship that is becoming more dynamic as time passes. When customers buy or don’t buy after navigating a site, the business receives instant feedback from the customer. Also if a frustrated customer decides to leave a comment, that too serves as immediate feedback. When leaving feedback, e-customers naturally expect that the speed, efficacy and timeliness of the response would match up and the companies that don’t rise to the challenge find themselves losing customers really fast. E-customers expect that companies will understand the myriad needs and expectations and deliver customized solutions to match them and companies just have to comply if they wish to succeed.

The challenges don’t just stop there – customers are moving from online shopping to shopping and buying on the go. The expectation is that companies will have applications in place that are compatible with the plethora of smart handheld devices. The power of the e-customers has got stronger – the fate of companies literally in the palm of their hands. Serving e-customers via these smart apps but ones that work smoothly and efficiently, holds the secret to success and companies that can ‘move with’ the e-customers are sure to steal the thunder from their competition. E-customers and e-business has made it very clear that unless companies continually match up to the surge of customer demands, they will not go far. So what should companies do to ensure that their e-customers receive great customer service?

– The most obvious is to have a customer focus. Make it personal, localized and relevant such that the customers can access the information in just a few seconds and clicks. Understand what else e-customers would like to see on your site and put it there.

– Stand out by understanding clearly what can and does make you different. Customers need to be excited and enticed in to buying from you – make that differentiation, translate those differences in to your products, website and service.

– Ensure that your business strategy for online business is clearly laid out. Continue to monitor it for efficacy and tweak it if required. Everyone knows that the Internet currently has and will continue to have a major impact on their business – so why not act now. Develop a clear and long term business focus to ensure success for your company and your customers.

– The more information you can provide to your e-customers the better. Keeping your customers informed lets them know that you care about what they can get and how they can get it. Also being transparent and ready to provide information allows customers to trust you more.

– Your online system could be working fine now but unless there is continuous monitoring and development, these could easily stop doing what they were intended to. Keeping ahead of your systems will allow you to respond quicker and also maintain that differentiation that your e-customers probably love about you.

– True, online business is about technology without any human connect and yet your company would like the ‘visitors’ to become customers. It would be great if some kind of human touch could be incorporated to make your e-customers feel more welcome.

– Ignoring your customers is the worst thing to do. If your e-customers take the trouble to drop you an email, it is your responsibility and good business sense to write back. Ascertain the tone of the email and proactively provide suggestions and or discounts to encourage your customer to return and buy again.
– Your website is your battleground – ensure that it is free from encumbrances such that it allows smooth navigation and ensures that your e-customers see it as they would like. Make sure that the layout is user-friendly and the appearance cheery and welcoming.

– Ensure that your online store has the capability of welcoming back repeat customers. The instant the customers put in details, a personalized message must pop-up and may be a query of how their last experience was.

– Being out of stock on preferred items or being on maintenance during peak hours will only serve to irritate your customers and have them go elsewhere. For customers a ‘down time’ means that they cannot make purchases at the time they want.

To serve e-customers well, ensure that they have access to the same products, services and information available on all other communication channels. Serious business and relationships can be developed via online strategies and experiences through providing top class support and customer service during each connection. The online experience must add-value to the e-customers and must never be about navigating page after page of information that they don’t find relevant. Less should be more and must be about providing the customers an opportunity to see a genuine interest in their needs and in building relationships. To serve your e-customers well, the fundamental aspect must be that it should be easy for them to navigate and buy just as easily it would be to roam the aisles in a brick and mortar store.

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