Web Marketing News New Company’s E-Customer Service Uses Tried-and-True DM Techniques By Ken Magill The biggest barrier to e-commerce is the horrendous According to Gordon, Total Fulfillment Services has tripled fulfillment and customer service offered by most Web E-Loan’s close rate, E-Loan declined to comment. merchants, according to Steve Gordon, a principal with the David Ward, a direct marketing veteran and president of recently launched online fulfillment company Total Fulfillment Early Advantage, said that his marketing program is mail-based Services LLC. but that he is in the initial stages of putting products on the After 18 years with direct marketing Web. He said the direct marketing industry’s successes during firm The Danbury Mint, Norwalk, CT, the past three decades have placed some high hurdles between Gordon helped found Total Fulfillment Internet merchants and e-commerce boom. Services, Westport, CT, in August to fill “People’s expectations of direct response on the Web are what he saw as a gaping hole in the online going to be fueled by their best experience in the world of marketplace. traditional direct marketing,” Ward said. “Which customer service department At the same time, direct marketing’s history is a vast resource would you like to call, L.L.Bean or for Web merchants who care to tap it. Microsoft?” he asked. Steve Gordon “As traditional direct marketers who have scaled those walls Gordon recounted a recent experience and fought those battles come onto the scene, it’s a chance for with Microsoft’s online airline ticketing service Web marketing to jump forward,” Ward said. Expedia (www.expedia.com). He received his tickets quickly but then called Expedia’s Gordon said he thinks that consumers have customer service department with a question. greater expectations of Web merchants than “Have you tried reaching their customer of their offline counterparts. service group? It is the anti-Bean,” Gordon e-customerser “There’s a mentality that ‘If I press said, adding that Expedia’s telephone this button, I know what’s on your auto-attendant took him through five layers database. So what do you mean you of selections before putting him on hold have to go through additional steps?’ for 15 minutes. You need to communicate with them “The whole e-commerce thing is a lot of people getting that much faster,” he said. hyped over technology,” Gordon said. “And from a technology As a result, making “real-time” standpoint, [the Internet] is new, it’s huge and it’s a big inventory available to Web users is a breakthrough. But at the end of the day, it’s just another L I M I T E D crucial function of what Gordon calls marketing channel.” e-customer service. Gordon noted parallels between the current state of “The people who have been successful on the Web so far e-commerce and of the direct response industry of the late are those that don’t have inventory issues, like Dell Computer 1960s and early 1970s. and Amazon.com,” he said. “That was when direct response started really taking Also, telephone and mail follow-up are critical to e-customer off because they figured out that if they wanted to compete, service. they had to be better at customer service than any retail “Consumers don’t check their e-mail 17 times a day, or even establishment,” he said. every day,” Gordon said. “At least if you mail a letter to them, Gordon said the Internet community falls into two categories: you know they’ll check their mail box.” “techies” and “business people.” Those in the business category Another critical component of a successful online selling “think it’s important to have a human contact at the other program is ensuring that each inbound call-center rep has end of the phone, [while techies] try to figure out how to get Web access. their [auto-attendant] to answer 90 percent of the questions.” “That way, when a customer calls with a problem,” he Among Total Fulfillment Services’ clients are Web loan said, “[the rep] can toggle to the Web site and walk through broker E-Loan, Palo Alto, CA, and children’s educational the transaction with the customer and identify where the material marketer Early Advantage LLC, Fairfield, CT. problem is.”s WEB MARKETING NEWS Old Rules Still Apply to E-Commerce By Steve Gordon Imagine a direct response package that took more than Give people a reason to come to your site. Many direct a minute to open. Or how about a catalog that had an order marketers have figured out that a Web site is a great place form for a cover. to advertise overstocks, sales and last-minute deals. A great Any direct response professional would find these example is Lands’ End, which posts an extensive list of sale ideas laughable. However, the Internet is full of examples of items and sends weekly e-mail to people who request it smart direct response companies forgetting the basics when showing items marked down. designing their Web sites. Dell Computer (www.dell.com) is a great example of a For instance, try ordering clothing from the Lands’ End direct marketer putting more and easier information on its site at www.landsend.com. Unbelievable, you will have Web site. You can build your own new computer online, to re-enter your size for every shirt your order. That never electronically changing components to see the price impact. happens with a Lands’ End order taker. If Lands’ End Try doing that with a phone rep. was on the ball, entering a customer number (or name and Unfortunately, not all direct marketers post additional address) would automatically load the product information on their Web sites. buyer’s purchasing profile and make Visit the granddaddy of customer service, L.L. Bean at him or her feel like a friend of the com- www.llbean.com. One would expect its Web site to offer a pany rather than an order number. wealth of information, just like its customer-service people. Too often, direct marketing profes- However, consider its approach to selling snow shoes. The sionals abdicate responsibility to Web catalog has a brief three-paragraph explanation of the snow developers at the cost of customer shoes. If you want more information, you can always call service and satisfaction and profitabilty. customer service. Here are some key considerations for Start browsing the Bean site for snow shoes and all you get Steve Gordon developing a Web site for e-commerce: is the same skimpy description as appears in the catalog. Keep the first page (home page) fast-loading and What a missed opportunity to have linked pages with a uncluttered. It should scream out key selling points. A great wealth of additional information on snow shoes, what to look example is online book seller Amazon. com (www.amazon.com). for when buying, how to have fun using them and more. The first page loads in less than 15 seconds. The key headlines are “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore,” “2.5 million titles” and “Savings up to 40%.” Most companies think, Use the power of computers to deliver personalized ‘I need a Web site’ customer service. Smart Internet companies have figured this out. For instance, Amazon.com makes personalized without a clue how it book recommendations. At www.yahoo.com, you can create personalized home pages (stocks you want to track, etc.). will help them. When you jump to the Yahoo site, your personal home page pops up with items you have identified for viewing. Not so long ago, the first thing a startup company needed Even techies occasionally need a person to call. Too many Internet operations think e-mail and online search was a great product and a few key selling points. Now, long engines will answer all customer questions, a philosophy before a coherent business plan is created, most companies that leads to lost sales and frustrated customers. The best think, “I need a Web site” without any clue why and how Web sites include a toll-free number (with extended hours) it will help their business. Like these startups, too many direct to provide technical assistance for the Web site, as well as response companies jump into a Web site with little general customer service. or no thought and end up with a site that contradicts, rather Faster service is critical. E-customers have unbelievable than complements, their customer service and sales image. expectations regarding speed of delivery and response to Marketers, take charge of your Web sites. Don’t be any questions. They feel directly connected to your computer more intimidated by Web developers than you are by and can envision the packing list being printed in the graphic designers. Make certain that customers coming to warehouse when they push the “submit” button on your your Web site receive the same high level of service as Web order page. they would from more traditional sales channels. Only then Don’t disappoint! Make certain your operations meet or can you maximize your opportunities in e-commerce.s exceed the customer’s expectations. Direct marketers rose to this challenge when customers moved from mail orders to Steve Gordon is CEO of TFS Ltd., Westport, CT, which phone orders. The transition to Internet ordering is far easier, specializes in customer service and fulfillment for Internet and yet no less important. direct response companies.
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