A new study from Kronos, Inc. discusses the phenomenon of retail sales shifting from brick and mortar stores to internet retailers. In a nutshell, the study states that internet retailers who expect to capitalize on this shift had better understand customer service.
I disagree with one of the conclusions of the article referenced above–that we are in an age where customer service is valued over the price. This is simply not true. All of my years of experience in e-commerce along with study after study show that customers are primarily interested in the lowest price. In fact, that is far and away the primary reason that internet retail took off in the first place.
So, here is a quick tip for you. If a consultant comes along and tells you that customer service is more important than price, fire them. They do not know what they are talking about.
That being said, price competition is a losers’ game for all but the big players and you need to focus hard on customer service if you are small or medium-sized.
When we talk about customer service at Vitabase, we talk about touchpoints. A touchpoint refers to anything that causes a contact between your company and the customers. Here are some touchpoints and a sampling of the details you have to consider:
1) Phone calls (How the phone is answered, protocol used, on-hold music, how conversations are ended)
2) Email (How soon emails are answered, the tone used to answer them, whether they are signed by a person or generically)
3) Shipment packaging (Box color, packing tape used, how the tape is applied, peanuts or paper for stuffing)
4) Product packaging (quality of printing, design, quality of the packaging itself)
5) After the order situations (how returns are handled, when credit cards are charged, backorders, etc.)
You start to get the idea. The fact is that your customers view your customer service by the way you are handling dozens of “small” details.
The moral of the story is this simple fact–your employees are very important and so is the way you train them. Those low-wage employees in your warehouse or on the phones are making a huge impact on your business. That is the conclusion of this study, and I wholeheartedly agree.