CUSTOMER DEFENCE SYSTEM Perhaps you remember the world before the internet really took off. I do; at least vaguely. I started regularly buying goods and services online around 1996, and at first could barely believe how much money I was saving by doing so. I remember thinking that there just had to be a catch. That even though I was often taxed on my imported items, they were still cheaper than I could possibly find locally. Today’s web is overwhelmingly commercial. And every day sees many thousands of new online businesses and existing businesses trying to sell their goods and services online. As the number of sellers continues to grow, so too do the number of buyers. I don’t have any figures to hand, but my gut instinct is that there are more new buyers each day than new sellers. And once a person has made their first online purchase they’ll be back to do so again. It’s more or less guaranteed. The good news is that you don’t have to worry about your business being swamped with demand. Spiralling sales, insatiable demand and bloated bank accounts can all be conquered by the implementation of a sales-effective Customer Defence System. Better still, if you’re pushed for time, you only need to take a small number of quick, easy to implement steps to start protecting your business from your customers more or less immediately. The following, in no particular order, are my top fourteen CDS steps. There are many more. But these are some of the most effective. (1) Secure your borders. Writing about how there are other countries beyond the US has almost become a cliché. So why do I continue to come across websites that just don’t realise this? Despite being UK based, there are forms that make me choose a state or don’t let me indicate I’m in a different country, companies that don’t mention that they only deliver to the US and more. One very well-known credit card processor has let me select the product and version that I want, choose the licence I need, enter all my details and card details, only to return some sort of 0000x85 error response. The eCommerce equivalent of the blue screen of death. When I called the company’s US office, it took some time for them to realise the problem. The credit card was non-US. Here’s a thought. You already have my contact information. You know the sale didn’t take place. Instead of an error message, why not offer to look into it and contact me? Wouldn’t getting the sale be worth it? (2) Contact pain. On the subject of contact, here’s a particularly quick and simple CDS step to implement. When I try to contact you, make me use a ticket system, then keep me waiting for days (or longer) before replying. Don’t let me contact you by email, and definitely not by phone. Keeping me at arms length is a great way to make sure my wallet is closed. You don’t want the headache of having to add me to your customer database after all. The beauty of this system is that you can keep me waiting for days. Then when you do reply, use CDS tip 10. Great stuff! (3) Prevention is better than the sale. Cunning technology can also be quite effective. IP detection is a good example. Before we moved to our new home, I had to make use of a 2-way satellite connection to connect to the internet. The hub used to be based in Germany, so anyone tracking my IP address would have thought I was German. I found a number of websites that automatically displayed the German pages to me. No matter what I did to try and get around this “feature”, I only saw German. Most users are capable of clicking on their flag, unless of course your main reason for doing this is CDS. In which case well done. It worked for me. (4) Paypal at gunpoint. While we’re on the subject of location, our company is based in the UK, and we bank with Barclays bank. Naturally when a company signs up with our services, we force them to open a Barclays bank account, as this means that paying our fees is fast and efficient, and we won’t have any charges. Our needs come before those of our clients, right? Obviously this isn’t the case, as doing so would be a little on the stupid side. So why do so many companies only take payment through PayPal? Many of your potential customers will not be willing or able to open a PayPal account, so the forced PayPal option is yet another effective means of deterring your customers. (5) Technical terrors. Over the years I’ve become reasonably competent with my PC. But no matter who you’re selling to, I guarantee that not all of your customers will be as familiar as you with their boxes of technology. Assuming you’re interested in making the sale, then don’t frighten the potential customer into running for cover. I know of a person who was scared to pay for some software he’d come across, as he didn’t know what grade Pentium processor he had, when the website said Pentium III or higher. And if someone uses Firefox, they may be concerned when they see IE 6 or higher is supported. 32 or 64 bit may also be cause for concern, and only worth referring to if (a) absolutely necessary or (b) as part of your CDS. (6) Licences from hell. Software companies are usually, but not always, in the business of making money. It’s all about selling licences and support. But some companies produce software licences that can concern, confuse or even scare away some of their potential customers. One company we worked with ran an uninstall survey, and received two responses explaining that they hadn’t purchased because of the confusing licensing terms. The two lost customers both expressed concern that they wouldn’t “own” the software, and were worried what they were paying for. I know what the licence meant. You know what the licence meant. The potential customers didn’t.Licensing is a horribly legal aspect of selling software, but make sure that your terms and conditions don’t chase your sales away.
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