Friday, August 7, 2009

Be Responsive

The key to E-commerce happiness is responsiveness. Full stop.

It's what gets you talked about positively by your colleagues, and recommended to others by your clients. It's what gets talked about on forums and twitter, if you do everything right.

But, if you go against this mantra of responsiveness - the opposite occurs. It is extremely damaging. Your name gets dragged through the pits of society, and it's even more prevalent and open in the current social web. Or you just get ignored. Either way - to get back to where you were in the first place takes double the effort. And people always remember. Or a google search will - pointing straight to the disgruntled customer venting it loudly in your chosen industry/niche forum.

So why is this so hard to apply in the E-commerce world? Your customers want to buy from you now. Or 3.24am while you're sleeping and you can't do anything about it. Not later. If they can't get what they want, a competitor is just a Google search away. My answer to why it's hard to be responsive? - it's not. It's not hard if you choose the right system and people to work with. If something happens to a product line that you're offering - you cant afford 4 hours of removing products for your website. It needs to be done now. Your system needs to be flexible to the way you do business - you shouldn't be forced to do business a certain way just because the system you chose wont let you.

This doesn't mean you have to bend over backwards and be screwed for every transaction you ever take part in from now on. But it does involve level headed negotiation, and a fair exchange, if either party is out of place.

Some simple things to apply:

  • Be upfront with everything. No shifty deals, no addition's after the transaction has taken place.
  • Deliver fast. Ship the same day an order is placed, where possible.
  • Answer questions immediately.
  • Never write an email reply to an angry customer complaint. Pick up the phone and deal with it professionally, and keep it humble. Well dealt with situations get talked about positively. Gary Vaynerchuck even posts video responses and posts them online. Deal with it and move on.
  • Apply quality control in the first place. Then you wouldn't have to be responsive to a human error emergency later. ($15 JB HiFi Samsung LCD TV's anyone?)
  • Treat everybody how you would expect to be treated.
  • Manage returns fairly, efficiently, and move on.
  • Build on reliable infrastructure. Cheap $5 hosting is a great idea until it experiences prolonged downtime.
  • Speed is a feature in the modern web. General site speed and responsiveness makes it all the more pleasurable to shop at your online store.
  • Build on flexible structure.
  • Be competitive. Service wins, but price is a big factor because it's easier to research cheaper options.
  • Build responsiveness into your company culture.

Are you ticking all the boxes? Responsiveness is the difference between a mediocre online store, and a great one. The great ones get the big customer dollars. So why wouldn't you want to be responsive?


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