TFS 1028 by sofiaie


       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 ( 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,” 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 ( 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 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- 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 (         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, makes personalized                         without a clue how it
book recommendations. At, 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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