Monday, March 2, 2009

Customer experience ecommerce style gets return business

Using the online ordering system of Dominos last night got me thinking about the customer experience. It was really cool how I could waltz in past the peak hour queues and pick up my pizza straight away, attracting dirty looks from the resenting line up. Greater Union Cinemas are doing the same for the movies. For big businesses where queues are inevitable, it's a logical choice to go the online path. I'd rather buy my ticket to the Foo Fighters over any day over lining up in queue at the box office.

But while smaller businesses may not have the problems of big queues, they still have to deal with one of the biggest challenges of online ecommerce: the lack of instant gratification. When buying a product, you can't touch, feel, or smell it. Once you pay for a product - you have to wait until it's delivered.

So what can help make a good customer experience when using an ecommerce system? There's plenty of room for innovation, but it ultimately comes down to the personal touches - and making the customer feel good about what you're delivering.

  1. Choice, Product Presentation, and Research: Show a product in it's best light. Show reviews, extended information (good for the Google juice goodness of keywords and content), let customers spin the product around 360 degrees, demo it in videos, and let them compare similar choices.
  2. Acknowledgement: Matt Freedman touched on it with the first point in his article about improving conversion rates, which is to acknowledge leads immediately.
  3. Order fulfilment: Ship quick! Keep updating your customer how it's going. Have an order status indicator in the customers account screen. Get the product to the customer as quickly as possible, in the best possible condition. Is there option for the customer to pick up? Can you deliver yourself if they're just across town? Amazon has their "milk run" where they use their own trucks to pick up stock if they know it'll be quicker than the postage service. Zappos is getting legendary status on it's delivery times (shipped in 5 hours from an order placed on a Sunday night?!?)
  4. Avoid any form of disappointment: Don't give the customer any reason to let off bad word of mouth. If mistakes happen - fix it! Give over the top service, complimentary coupons / vouchers. Bad vibes are just a twitter or blog post away.
  5. Ease of use: Let the customer order the product again (useful if the product is a consumable) from their past orders in their account screen.
  6. Consistency: Give good service all the time, and understand what it takes to deliver this. Amazon employees, from the CEO down, are all required to spend a few days a year on the customer service desk. Initiatives such as this will help spread the experience your company delivers organisation wide. Develop some rules for consistency, and make sure everyone implements them and gets a chance to improve them.
  7. Encourage return business: Give them a reason to come back. Can you give loyal customers a freebie every now and then? I always go back to Gloria Jeans because of this. If you can't do freebies, can you do 10% off?
  8. Measure, Test, Review and Improve: Identify KPI's (bestsellers, out of stock orders, dispatch time, negative reviews, charge backs), conduct secret shopper tests, get feedback, and improve.

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