How Effective Is Online Customer Service?

How is online customer service similar to face-to-face customer service? Are there any similarities?

Answer

Shep Hyken (CAO (Chief Amazement Officer) and customer service expert, Shepard Presentations, LLC)
There is an old expression that says people like doing business with people they know, they like and they trust. Much easier to do in person than online, but some companies have proven to deliver excellent online service. One of the best online companies delivering service is Zappos.com. Several reasons:

1. They make it easy to contact a live person. On every page there is contact information. They make it easy and obvious. This builds trust and customer confidence.

2. The make their guarantees easy to understand and very customer friendly. Again, this builds customer confidence.

3. If a customer has to call, a well-trained and very customer-friendly representative will dazzle the customer with excellent service.

These online customer focused strategies give Zappos a competitive edge.

So, to deliver effective online service, consider the following:

1. Display a phone number at the top of the page.
2. Promise (and make good on) speedy product delivery time.
3. Have an easy return policy that includes self-addressed labels with each delivered package.
4. Friendly and informed customer service reps should be available and they should be easy to reach with minimal wait times.
5. A keyword search box that also includes non-product related terms such as “overnight delivery” and “return policy.”

In addition to this, I would suggest you look at the website www.StellaService.com. They rate online retailers and have some very interesting information.

Finally, the proof is in the numbers. The online companies who delver excellent online service can charge a higher price. There is a premium that customers will pay for confidence that great service and reputation create.

Shep Hyken, author of 'The Amazement Revolution' (http://www.hyken.com)
2 Additional Answers
Jim Watson (Management Consultant, JL Watson Consulting)
Lauren, Shep has already given a very comprehensive response with solid examples of on line customer service done right.

If I were to sum up the best practices in a single, easy-to-remember phrase, it would be this:

'Effective on-line customer service is about making the customer's life easy - really easy.'

That said, when evaluating a customer service portal, consider each click, each screen, and each step in the process, and ask the question, 'Does this make the customer's life easier?'

If the answer is 'Yes,' keep it.
If the answer is 'No,' change it.

And of course, the best source of the honest answer is always...

the Customer!

Good luck, Lauren-
Jim Watson
http://jlwatsonconsulting.typepad.com/my-blog/
@JLWATSONCONSULT
Rosanne Dausilio PhD (President, Human Technologies Global Inc)
Agree with the above and woudl add...

Make the site user friendly to the customer, not the company, easy to navigate, simple to use, availability of online chat to walk people through the process, and a prominent 800 # to call.

Most self service is inefficient and ineffective statistically. Test your site as if you were a customer and see for yourself the flow and ease of purchase,.
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