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					E-SERVICE
24 Ways to Keep Your Customers – When the Competition Is Just a Click Away
RON ZEMKE and TOM CONNELLAN

RON ZEMKE is the author or coauthor of 27 books, including the eight book Knock Your Socks Off Service series. He is also a management consultant, researcher and senior editor of Training Magazine. Mr. Zemke is the founder and president of Performance Research Associates Inc., a customer relationship management consulting firm. TOM CONNELLAN is a senior principal with Performance Research Associates Inc. He is the author of five books, including Inside the Magic Kingdom, Seven Keys to Disney’s Success. Mr. Connellan consults with a broad range of corporate clients, is on the advisory board of several e-commerce companies and is a highly acclaimed speaker, trainer and consultant.

SUMMARIES.COM is a concentrated business information service. Every week, subscribers are e-mailed a concise summary of a different business book. Each summary is about 8 pages long and contains the stripped-down essential ideas from the entire book in a time-saving format. By investing less than one hour per week in these summaries, subscribers gain a working knowledge of the top business titles. Subscriptions are available on a monthly or yearly basis. Further information is available at http://www.summaries.com.

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MAIN IDEA For an online company, the customer’s experience of your service becomes your brand. Contrary to conventional Internet thinking, the key to success doesn’t lie in attracting visitors but in creating highly satisfied customers who will do business with you again and again. And creating highly satisfied customers isn’t a random or hit-and-miss affair – it is the natural result of applying the correct principles and customer service concepts. The Internet is rapidly and permanently moving beyond the novelty stage and becoming part of the mainstream of life. In the early days, customers were prepared to live with second class treatment because of the newness of the medium. That’s no longer true. Today’s consumers are demanding the same level of service they can get offline – and if you can’t provide that, they will quickly click over to a competitor who will. But deliver great service – that’s easy, that lives up to your promises and treats them as valued customers – and you’ll create the greatest asset any online business can have: highly satisfied customers who are prepared to do business with you again and again.

7 Principles 1. Be easy-to-do-business-with. How To Deliver E-Service That Creates Highly Satisfied Customers (Page 2) 1 2 3 2. Have a distinctive design. (Pages 3 - 4)

24 Key Concepts Master the design basics that make you easy-to-do-business-with. Put in place the back-end systems required before launch. Develop systems that are both employee- and customer-friendly.

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Inject a little personality into every customer contact point. Make emotion a part of the customer experience you provide. Build in security, download speed and easy navigation. Build and convey trust with sound design principles. Build trust from the very first click onwards. Think along the lines of a first rate catalog – not a cyberstore.

3. Personalize the e-experience. (Page 5)

10 Win the customer’s trust first – Ask for information later. 11 Use personalized e-mail to build trust and credibility. 12 Make expert customer service representatives available as required. 13 Create an online community to add value to a Web site.

4. Deliver end-to-end service. (Page 6)

14 Focus on fast and efficient order fulfillment and delivery services. 15 Create a paperless system.

5. Encourage human contact. (Pages 6 - 7)

16 Make contact with humans accessible, ample and flexible. 17 Understand and manage the customer’s expectations for contacts. 18 Hire people who can handle both text and voice equally well. 19 Link E-Service standards to customer and Web time.

6. Fix problems better and faster. (Page 7)

20 Master and excel at the basics of service recovery. 21 Always define service recovery from the customer’s perspective.

7. Develop a retention strategy. (Page 8)

22 Practice customer retention planning. 23 Find effective ways to make the first three visits memorable. 24 Provide incentives which increase customer spending.

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Principle #1 Be easy-to-do-business-with. Main Idea A company which is easy-to-do-business-with assumes that customers come to their Web site to have a need met rather than to be dazzled by their technology. Therefore, they think like customers rather than technicians and make everything as simple and straightforward as possible. Supporting Ideas Key Concept Master the design basics that make you #1 easy-to-do-business-with. A well designed and customer oriented Web site:
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Key Concept Put in place the back-end systems required #2 before launch. Your back-end systems will consist of everything that must be in place for you to deliver on the service promises made to customers on your Web site. There’s nothing worse that promising stellar performance online and then failing to live up to that reputation in the real world. This should also be a progressive system – it should be getting easier and easier for customers to do business with you over time. After all, that’s what your competitors are doing, so if you fail to keep moving forward, you’ll automatically be moving comparatively backwards. A firm that is easy-to-do-business-with aligns what they promise online with how they perform in the real world. They have the systems in place to execute and deliver. Key Concept Develop service delivery systems that are #3 both employee- and customer-friendly. Good e-service delivery systems are easy on your employees – aligning with the way they work most effectively – and easy for employees to actually use in delivering great service. There won’t be a huge number of rules getting in the way and slowing things down. From the customer’s point-of-view, a “friendly” service delivery system is:
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Is relevant – helping visitors get things done rather than be dazzled by the founder’s knowledge. Avoids time wasting – since people are busy and want one-click access to everything they need. Makes everything obvious and accessible. Has pages that download quickly – in 8-seconds or less. Incorporates a simple purchase process. Gives loads of search options and capabilities. Encourages visitors to contact the firm if they want help or have a question – and allows them to access that help whenever and wherever they want it. Answers e-mails in less than a day, preferably with a personal rather than an automated e-mail response. Never tells a customer they are too busy to respond right at present – since that invites them to shop elsewhere. Is easy to navigate around. Puts prices up front and everywhere. Has a simple and beneficial registration process which avoids asking for tedious, non-essential information. Tells what the shipping costs and handling charges will be long before customers checkout. Makes it simple for customers to return items if they want to. Has a fast and painless checkout process. Sets realistic delivery dates – and then delivers on time. Avoids gimmicks – like blinking or spinning graphics. Allows personalization – so customer time is saved in the future. Keeps track of past purchases and provides simple reorder options. Provides the ability for e-mail reminders to be sent if the customer wants one.

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Accessible anytime and anywhere. Accurate. Integrated to a single contact point. Understandable. Fast. Totally transparent.

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Smart companies create these types of customer friendly delivery systems by setting standards, measuring performance, smoothing out the inevitable glitches that arise and experimenting with new ideas all the time. Key Thoughts “One thing is pretty clear. Customers have needs, wants and desires. Tap into those needs, wants and desires and you have a map of how your Web site should work. Absent this map, you end up getting stabbed in a duel you don’t even know you’ve entered. Want an even clearer map? Visit customers where they actually visit your site. Chances are you’ll learn even more.” – Ron Zemke and Tom Connellan “Most everyone involved in e-commerce is proud of their twenty-four/seven presence. Forget the emphasis on twenty-four/seven. That’s a necessary but not sufficient condition for success on the Net. Think 360. You want a 360-degree view of your customers.” – Ron Zemke and Tom Connellan “Internet commerce is obviously here to stay, and it’s going to provide benefits far beyond those presently in place or yet envisaged. The Net’s ruthless savings have greatly reduced friction, created enormous time savings, made customers smarter and ushered in a whole new era of business opportunity. Just the same, there is still much to be done before e-promise becomes consistent, customer-pleasing e-performance.” – Ron Zemke and Tom Connellan

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There are now so many online businesses that customers are becoming better informed. They are refusing to do business through a Web site where everything they want to do is a struggle. In fact, in their eyes, the whole idea of new technology is to make life (and work) easier and more fun – not harder and more complex. If you accommodate customers by designing your Web site with their needs in mind, they will become passionately loyal to you. Conversely, ignore their preferences and you’ll soon find your competitors are enjoying a healthy boost in business at your expense.

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Principle #2 Have a distinctive design. Main Idea Some Web sites are little more than electronic brochures or lists of items for sale. By contrast, distinctive Web sites build trust and loyalty, and make visitors feel well served. These Web sites serve the customer’s needs while providing an online experience which is unique and memorable. Supporting Ideas Key Concept Inject a little personality into every customer #4 contact point. Brand name recognition may bring visitors to your Web site once, but only an outstanding online experience will elevate you from acceptable to memorable. And the best way to achieve that is to brand every customer touchpoint – wherever the customer comes into contact with your company. Each of these touchpoints are a moment-of-truth – an opportunity for a customer to form negative or positive impressions about your organization. Make each touchpoint foolproof, easy and focused on the customer rather than the company and your Web site will immerse visitors in the experience. For a brick-and-mortar business, the Web should be an extension of their current customer experience, in ways that reinforce and build on the positives. On the other hand, for a pure dot-com, your Web site is your brand identity, and customers will judge you on the basis of their experience starting with their first click. For both pure dot-coms and bricks-and-mortar businesses, the experience customers have while at your site dictates whether or not they make a purchase. How you respond to that purchase will determine whether they’ll continue shopping with you. Thus, each customer touchpoint should convey the personality and character of your business. Key Concept Make emotion a part of the customer #5 experience you provide. Good Web sites capture and then engage visitors emotionally. They take that initial curiosity and interest, and transform that into delight by providing information as rapidly as possible. Visiting a memorable Web site is always an emotional rather than an educational experience. How’s that achieved? Normally, through a combination of loads of little factors rather than anything big:
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Key Concept Build in security, download speed and easy #6 navigation. Fast, easy and consistent access to a site are essential design elements. Specifically, most visitors to a Web site follow a three step sequence: 1. They look first at the security features. If there’s no encryption of sensitive information, they figure the site isn’t really commercially sound and go elsewhere. 2. Next, they evaluate how fast the site’s pages are downloading. Any longer than 8-seconds per page and once again, they click elsewhere. 3. Finally, consumers look at how involved the ordering step is. Once they have decided precisely what they want from a site, customers want to be able to check out quickly from anywhere they choose. Good online businesses already know not all customers think alike, act alike or want to interact with the site in the same ways. Therefore, their Web sites are well organized, easy to navigate around and consistent in the way they are designed. Key Concept Build and convey trust with sound design principles. #7 Web sites with sound designs are trustworthy – they have an infrastructure that is reliable and consistent. The look and feel of the Web site conveys that trustworthiness. The underlying rationale for trustworthiness in an online business is this relationship:

Trust

Loyalty

Repeat Business

A well designed Web site communicates to the buyer that your business is worthy of their trust, thereby encouraging them to make their first transaction with you. If you deliver as promised and have a good product, the customer’s loyalty is earned. And it is that loyalty that underpins all future transactions and repeat business. That feeling of trustworthiness must be built into every link, every online form the customer uses and every graphic that appears on your Web site. If all of these elements are consistent and professional, that provides proof of your firm’s trustworthiness. Equally, if you demonstrate you can’t get the little things right, most customers will become uncomfortable at best and suspicious at worst. Once that happens, they are unlikely to trust you enough to want to do business. Thus, sound design doesn’t just make your business look good. It forms an integral and important part of the process of getting people to trust you enough to do business with you. It’s a demonstration of your trustworthiness. That goes beyond simple aesthetics and strikes at the very heart of online success.

By using well thought out graphics and links. By avoiding the more obvious mistakes. By attention to detail. By providing easy and consistent access. By performing reliably on anllservice promises made. By catering to the wants, needs, expectations and dreams of online visitors.

Great Web sites connect with visitors at an emotional level. They take the visitor on a journey of mutual disocvery. The more emotion that’s involved, the more memorable a Web site becomes.

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Key Concept Build trust from the very first click #8 onwards. Most online customers visit far more sites that they actually do business with. Thus, communicating a feeling of trustworthiness must occur as soon as a visitor first starts interacting with a Web site or else there may not be a second chance. Building high levels of e-trust is a two step process: 1. Everything about the Web site must be 100-percent picture perfect in the attributes customers consider are core fundamentals for doing business. 2. The Web site must demonstrate convincingly the business is working to add something special to what it offers. Brick-and-mortar companies actually have a significant head start in building online trust and loyalty because consumers are familiar with their brand. And since they perform in a trustworthy way offline, most customers assume the same will be true of their Web sites. Pure dot-coms, however, face a stiffer challenge. The only means at their disposal for building trust are:
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Key Thoughts “While price is always a consideration for consumers, unless you intend to undersell yourself right out of business, the competition will probably meet or beat what you’ve got to offer. You could make the lowest price in your segment your point of differentiation. But how viable is that as a long-term business model? Forrester Research, a leading e-commerce research organization, has boldly predicted the demise of most dot-com retailers by 2001, averring that the key to survival for dot-coms rests on something most of them can’t fathom – the quality of their service. If you can’t differentiate on the product offering and can’t profitably differentiate on price, the only point of differentiation is service. No matter where you look, the message comes through loud and clear: Service is key to winning on the Web.” – Ron Zemke and Tom Connellan “The number of highly satisfied customers is the long-term lifeblood of an online company.” – Ron Zemke and Tom Connellan “The enchanting rap among and about dot-coms had been about the importance of ‘acquiring eyeballs’. That makes some sense as a preliminary measurement of customer preacquisition, but the real measurements need to be built around ‘activating fingertips’. E-commerce companies need to study why people come to a Web site the first time, what they do when they arrive, and, most importantly, what makes them come back and do it again. Coming back does not happen as a result of ‘satisfaction’; it happens when customers are more than satisfied to be doing business with you. The headline to keep in mind? Customer satisfaction is a poor predictor of loyalty. To keep them clicking back you need to create a sense of customer delight. You need to ‘wow’ them with your superior standards for quality and service. You must promote a feeling of partnership through honest sharing of information and respect for their needs and always build on the foundation of a trusting relationship. If you do these things, then you will build a loyal and profitable following online.” – Ron Zemke and Tom Connellan “Nothing in the history of business has grown with the speed of commerce on the Internet. Nothing. By one estimate, the 1990s saw hundreds of thousands of new commercial Web-based start-ups a year. With every rumor of new venture success, a thousand and one ‘What if’ visions join the entrepreneurial ether and the business plans flow. Just as every new business concept is almost instantaneously copied and/or mutated a dozen times, e-service advances rocket through the medium at blazing speed. Just the same, we believe there is a short list of principles – seven to be exact – that govern the management and delivery of high-quality, customer-pleasing, company-differentiating e-service. Armed with this menu of idea, any commerce venture can meet the challenge of creating and maintaining an e-service edge.” – Ron Zemke and Tom Connellan “If location, product and price are null sum differentiators, and they won’t even work in the short, much less the long run, where does that leave the fledgling e-commerce venture of a traditional company or its dot-com competitor? We suggest there is but one surefire e-commerce differentiator for dot-com and brick and click endeavors as well: Service, or perhaps more correctly, e-service.” – Ron Zemke and Tom Connellan

To advertise sufficiently so people are familiar with them. To rely on word-of-mouth endorsements from others who have already done business with you. To offer a Web site which is consistently good from start to finish. This will include well thought out and conceived pages, high levels of anticipation of customer needs and information that is packaged forthrightly and attractively.

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In practice, trust building doesn’t start when an order is placed – it has to start right from the first click the customer makes. Key Concept Think along the lines of a first-rate catalog #9 – not a cyberstore. Most early e-commerce businesses set up their Web sites using a store metaphor – since they assumed that would generate some customer familiarity. The only problem is this is actually not an effective way to structure an online business. A better analogy for a Web site is to build an electronic first-rate catalog, where consumers can access products (with illustrations and descriptions) quickly and directly. Add an easy checkout process and an easy-to-navigate format and you can build a Web based tool that will create many satisfied customers. The catalog metaphor makes more sense than a cyberstore approach because:
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The Internet is self-paced – a catalog approach allows people to see items in their own preferred order and sequence. The Internet has a strong do-it-yourself bias – and the catalog idea caters to that preference better than a store does. You can add all kinds of tools – like personalization, multimedia, product visualization and so forth in a dynamic and fun format. With a catalog layout, you can meet and exceed customer expectations. Online customers love options. They resist being forced through linear, one-way processes. The catalog approach is the most flexible format available. With a catalog, individual products can be updated constantly. The entire Web site doesn’t have to be redesigned to add the latest and greatest products.

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Principle #3 Personalize the e-experience. Main Idea People like doing business with other human beings, not with technology. If the Web experience is impersonal, there is little or no commitment, but add customer intimacy with personalization and customers will become passionate. Supporting Ideas Key Concept Win the customer’s trust first. #10 Ask for information later. The dynamic of the Internet environment is such it’s always easier for a customer to move on to another site than it is for them to stop and provide personal information. Therefore, customers will only provide information through registration forms and so forth if they trust the online business to use that information in ways that will benefit the shopper personally. In other words, the payoff for providing information has to benefit both the customer and the online business. From the customer’s perspective, the benefits may include faster checkout and delivery services, more targeted and relevant offers or free samples of additional products. The general rule-of-thumb is Web sites are required to earn respect and trust first before asking customers to disclose confidential and personal information about themselves. Key Concept Use personalized e-mail to build trust #11 and credibility. The usual criteria by which an online customer bases their opinion of the quality of customer service is how quickly the firm responds to an e-mail that is sent to them. If the response time is short and the message is genuinely personalized, customer trust soars. And conversely, if the business fails to respond to an e-mail or sends a canned response which is inappropriate, customer trust plunges. When companies respond efficiently to e-mail queries:
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Make expert customer service representatives available as required.

A good customer service representative should be able to do much more than simply answer customer questions in a personable manner. They should also be able to provide free training and expert advice that adds value to the product offered. By providing training, customer service representatives create loyal buyers. By personalizing that educational experience, customers then become far more likely to do more business in the future. And by teaching them how to get the most out of products, the consumer gets more tangible benefits. It should also be noted that not all expert advice has to be provided by human contact. Many shoppers like the Web because it removes pushy salespeople from the transaction. For these customers, Web-based automated tools which allow them to experiment with the products before needing to reach a buying decision may be preferred. In addition to adding value, these tools can also make a site more fun, more accessible and thus more personally relevant to their unique needs. All of these elements – from expert personal trainers to automated tools – are available to contribute to the overall customer experience. Key Concept Create an online community to add value #13 to a Web site. In simple terms, building an online community around a product catalog means the Web site becomes more than a place to buy – it becomes a place to learn, share ideas and communicate with other people. Many Web sites have erroneously assumed building a community requires a vast database of knowledge where experts are available to answer every conceivable question. In practice, building a community is simpler than that. You can create a community around a few bulletin boards where customers can visit to read other experiences and submit their own. Often, these bulletin boards operate with little or no input from the company itself and are run entirely by the users. The main reason people like online communities is they indicate the Web site operator cares about their interests and has them in mind. By being able to interact with their peers, customers regard a Web site more highly. There is also a little sense of fun and shared esprit de corps that develops. And when competitors are a simple click of the mouse away, making a Web site more fun to visit can be the single difference between success and failure. Key Thoughts “When nothing happens to make the Web experience personal, it’s easier for the shopper to abandon a site and forget about it than it is to make a purchase. Don’t underestimate that dynamic.” – Ron Zemke and Tom Connellan “So while it’s essentially a one-size-fits-all e-world in retail, personalization of the Web experience is the natural next step in the e-commerce evolution. It adds value to the site and gives consumers reasons to be loyal. Giving them the tools and information they want, giving them an in-depth value package, will make them more likely to reward you with their business.” – Ron Zemke and Tom Connellan

They demonstrate to customers they aren’t just theoretically interested in doing business. They show they do the little things well – therefore, they are also likely to do the big things well. They show they are willing to provide personalized attention instead of a mass approach. They increase the likelihood of future business. They transform the Web experience from being generic to personalized

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So what time frame is reasonable for an e-mail response? There seems to be a generally circulated rule-of-thumb that states as long as a reply is received within 24-hours, that’s fine. In practice, however, customers see things differently. They don’t particularly want to wait that long. Most of the top Web sites are now aiming to respond in 1-hour or less if at all possible or within the same business day if the 1-hour timeframe is impractical. Or even better, many Web sites now make it possible for the query to be handled in real time by a live customer service rep using one-to-one chat boxes. That’s the new gold standard for responsiveness to customer questions and queries.

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Principle #4 Deliver end-to-end service. Main Idea For a good Web site, the celebrations don’t begin when the customer submits their order. Instead, that’s simply the start of a service cycle to get the product or service delivered efficiently. Only once that has been achieved can the results be counted. Supporting Ideas Key Concept Focus on fast and efficient order fulfillment #14 and delivery services. Placing an order is really just the starting gate. If the fulfillment and delivery services don’t operate flawlessly, customer loyalty will suffer. In fact, most of the large and successful Web sites are now hard at work building high-speed, high-efficiency local distribution centers so they can deliver products right to the customer’s front door the next day after the order is placed – if not sooner. Since many dot-coms lack the financial resources and expertise to do this, they outsource these delivery and fulfillment functions to the specialists. That makes good business sense with one important proviso – customers love to have online access to their order’s current production and shipping status. Therefore, part of providing the type of quality delivery service customers love will involve making online tracking of progress available. If the outsourced company is unable to provide that information seamlessly, there will be a perceived quality shortfall. A good delivery and fulfillment system also uses e-mail intelligently. Customers are advised when their order has been received, when the goods ship and immediately if there are any delays. Customers expect nothing less. Key Concept Create a paperless system. #15 Smart online businesses are also putting electronic payment systems in place in parallel with efficient delivery and order fulfillment services. Why? They want to make it easier and more cost efficient for customers to do business with them then to go to one of their competitors who are still locked into the credit-application-invoice-check cycle. A paperless system also makes product returns easier to process. Savvy Web businesses make it as easy for a customer to return their product as it is to buy it in the first place. That creates loyalty on the part of customers and increases their confidence in the online business enterprise. It goes a long way towards convincing customers the business has their best interests at heart. So how does an e-business measure how well it’s doing in a paperless system?
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Principle #5 Encourage human contact. Main Idea By definition, e-commerce is efficient. It doesn’t have to be sterile though. Incorporating a human touch – in just the right proportion – adds warmth and personality to an e-business. Supporting Ideas Key Concept Make contact with humans accessible, #16 ample and flexible. Sometimes, there is no substitute for the wisdom, grace and soothing warmth of the human touch. Savvy Web site operators know that, and make it so. They make it easy for customers to:
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Call an 800-number. Have their concerns answered by e-mail from a human rather than a software package. Text chat live with service reps or technical support people right at the Web site. Use whatever combination of voice, e-mail and Web the customer prefers.

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How much human support your customers need will vary according to the nature of your product, the size and characteristics of your customer base and an array of other factors. Often, a little trial and error is required to get the balance just right. But the underlying principle is clear. Any Web business which makes it difficult for customers to interact directly with a human when required will be at a huge disadvantage to a competitor who does. Key Concept Understand and manage the customer’s #17 expectations for contacts. The fact the Web is an immediate medium, available 24-hours a day 7-days a week, means e-customers expect immediate service. And those customer expectations are fueled by media coverage of the practices of the most exceptional e-businesses. So how can those expectations be managed realistically without losing goodwill?
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Keep customers in the information loop and feeling in control. For example, when they send an e-mail, generate an automated reply which acknowledges receipt of their e-mail and advises how long it will take you to respond personally to them. That grounds the customer’s expectations, and gives them some sort of feel for how long the process will take. Use automated templates to send responses to the most common general questions. Try sending out periodic e-mail updates at various stages of long processes. Consider looking at auto response systems which search for key words in e-mails and templates those words into the responses generated.

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Through online surveys of customers as they complete interactions with the business. By talking to customers on the phone. By compiling the information provided by installers, technicians or service reps. Through bulletin boards or other community noticeboard sections of their Web site. By analyzing the number of customers who are one-time purchasers only.

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How this issue is best handled will vary according to a number of factors. Being aware of the need to manage customer expectations is a useful starting point for the development of more detailed ideas.

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Key Concept Hire people who can handle both text and #18 voice equally well. This is actually harder to do that it appears at first glance. People who have excellent phone skills (empathy, ability to understand audible clues, cheery voices) are rarely equally adept at crafting clear, sensitive and cohesive e-mail responses (which must avoid being too abrupt, condescending or impersonal). Equally, the people who man the live text chat facility have to have the skills required to shepherd impatient people through an online buying process. In other words, they have to know the site and the product line so well they can, with confidence, keep people moving in the right direction. In other words, a large degree of cross training will be required among staff that are frequently new hires working for usually the lowest pay in the entire organization. The solution?
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Principle #6 Fix problems better and faster. Main Idea Despite everyone’s best efforts, things sometimes go wrong. These are great opportunities to build customer loyalty because, handled well, they give clear and convincing proof of your commitment to customer satisfaction. Supporting Ideas Key Concept Master and excel at the basics of #20 service recovery. Excellent companies are committed to doing whatever it takes to create satisfied customers. When their first efforts to do this fail (whether through something they had direct control over or not), they have a carefully planned and thoughtfully worked out process ready to swing into action. They get into action immediately to rectify the problem – even if doing so dissolves all the profit from the initial transaction. Their course of action is whatever is appropriate to the situation – replacing the product entirely, offering money back, and so forth. Why is this good business? Because it creates believers in the customer’s service promise, who will not only become long-term and loyal customers themselves but they will also tell all their associates about the great way they were treated. Bottom-line in the online world, the better the customer service recovery system works, the more highly regarded the company will become. Key Concept Always define service recovery solely #21 from the customer’s perspective. How well a service recovery process is working should always be evaluated solely from the customer’s perspective. From that viewpoint:
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Double up on customer service staff – leaving some to specialize in handling phone calls while others handle e-mail inquiries only. Hire better quality people – which will mean paying higher salaries to attract people with the right skills. Put in place training programs to upskill all customer service representatives to become generalists. Identify your very best customer service representative and find ways to replicate them. Key Concept Link E-Service standards to customer #19 and Web time.

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In e-commerce, speed always wins. Therefore, when you develop internal standards for performance, link everything to “Internet time” rather than the conventional rhythm of your existing systems. To put that another way, customer expectations have risen with the arrival of the Internet. If you fail to respond to their inquiries swiftly and accurately, they will go elsewhere to do business. To stay at the cutting edge in this area:
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Provide feedback whenever an e-mail is sent to your company – let customers know how long it will take you to reply. Evaluate the possibility of introducing live text chat with a real human on your Web site. Offer a “call me” option – where customers can leave their phone number for a customer service representative to call them back. Make it easy for people to browse on the Web and then come and see you in person to complete the transaction. Expand the self-service capabilities and information available on your Web site. Make available online or in-person training seminars teaching how to make best use of your Web site’s features. Create online bulletin boards and forums where experienced users can help novice users get up to speed. Explore natural language search engines – allowing visitors to ask questions in everyday language. Give customers access to honest-to-goodness human help in whatever shape and format best suits the customer’s needs and the requirements of your product or service offering.

Customers expect a solution that is reliable, secure, empathetic to their needs, responsive and tangible. Customers expect not only their physical needs to be met but their confidence in you to be rebuilt as well. That takes more than simply replacing defective products but following through to check everything is back on track. Most often, customers like to participate in the problem solving effort. They like to feel like a partnership is evolving, so ultimately “our” solution to the problem will emerge. Customers dislike being treated unfairly. They’re far more tolerant of what they perceive as honest mistakes. Customers can sense whether or not the recovery process is planned or ad hoc. A planned process engenders far more confidence.

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In the final analysis, the company’s viewpoint on the recovery process used really isn’t that relevant. All that really matters in e-commerce is how the customer views what the company is doing to set things right. If they see a genuine best efforts program underway to address their concerns, they will be impressed. If that effort exceeds their expectations and goes the extra mile, they’ll often become passionate evangelists for and on behalf of the company. For great online companies, service recovery really does become a matter of personal pride, not concern.

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Principle #7 Develop a retention strategy. Main Idea Successful e-commerce companies aren’t leaving repeat business to luck, offering a great product or chance. They have a well conceived plan for bringing customers back to their site again and again. And this master plan always involves all of the other six principles discussed. Supporting Ideas Key Concept Practice customer retention planning. #22
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Key Concept Provide incentives which increase #24 customer spending. Loyalty marketing programs have long been used in the offline world. In recent times, those programs are starting to make the transition to the e-commerce world in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and formats. All of these programs are intended to turn one-time customers into enthusiastic, frequent buyers. The very best online customer loyalty programs:
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Survey repeat customers regularly to determine exactly what motivates them to keep coming back – so the business can provide more of the same. Communicate with established customers regularly to strengthen awareness and make special offers. Provide exceptional levels of worthwhile after-sales service and support to reinforce the purchase decision. Concentrate on retaining the most profitable customers in meaningful ways. Incorporate features like automatic replenishment as a rationale for keeping in touch.

Prior to 1999, most Internet businesses were fixated on new customer acquisition – with capturing eyeballs, hits and click-through rates being the key metrics bandied about. However, since that time, attention has shifted to retaining existing customers and building profitable long-term business relationships. Specifically, to encourage people to continue doing business with them, the excellent online companies are now:
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Making sites easy to master and use repeatedly. Adding to an inventory of compelling products. Keeping all their online promises, especially delivery times. Responding quickly to inquiries. Continuing to master the basics and simplify things.

There are also an increasing number of hybrid loyalty marketing programs under development, which combine online offers with offline benefits and participation in other more established loyalty programs. In short, many more dot-coms are planning aggressive and comprehensive retention strategies. They are analyzing customers to understand exactly what it is they’re after, and finding ways to give them more. Key Thoughts “We live in the most inventive, creative age since the onset of the industrial revolution. Yesterday’s brainstorms are today’s business plans and tomorrow’s killer ‘Apps’. The next great Internet idea is only as far away as the imagination – and a little funding – can see. And tomorrow’s todays are only a thought away.” – Ron Zemke and Tom Connellan “Clearly, the Internet will change – is changing – the way organizations interact with customers. The Internet has already made massive changes in how time, space and location affect customer relationships. Outside of the workplace it has produced – and will continue to produce – massive amounts of change in your life and the lives of your neighbors. The most amazing thing about the Internet is that most of the changes it makes in our lives are still to come.” – Ron Zemke and Tom Connellan “The infrastructure of the Internet is largely in place. Customer loyalty, not technology, is going to be the factor that separates the winners from the losers. If you’re in the competitive ballpark on offering and price, you get to play in the game. But to be a champion you need to differentiate yourself on outstanding service. Service will separate the winners from the losers – in fact it’s already beginning to happen. The winners understand that, and so should you.” – Ron Zemke and Tom Connellan

All in all, world-class e-commerce companies are hard at work removing the complexity from the lives of e-customers. In doing so, they are enhancing the likelihood of future business with their existing customer base. Key Concept Find effective ways to make the first three #23 visits memorable. Numerous studies have show e-customers require three visits to get comfortable with a Web site: 1. The first visit will often involve a trial purchase to see what the online buying experience is really like. 2. Customers then often make a second purchase – to confirm the first-time performance wasn’t just an aberration. 3. By the time of the third visit, the e-customer is starting to think long-term benefits and establishing a good relationship with the site. Savvy e-businesses understand that cycle and come up with effective ways to manage the customer’s experience during each of those first three visits. How this is actually done varies, according to the nature of the product or service involved. The traditional approach (carried over from retail habit) was to use loss-leader prices to stimulate those first three transactions. Customers, however, are more aware of that strategy than any other. Accordingly, they weigh pricing against a number of other factors – variety and depth of inventory selection, ease of doing business, reliability of delivery, etc.

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