According to a white paper titled "The Insider's Guide to Customer Service on the Web: Eight Secrets for Successful e-Service," companies that don't develop effective customer relationship management (CRM) strategies can wind up spending up to 20 times more per incident than competitors.
Companies with poor e-service not only lose customers but they also experience an inundation in calls and e-mail, resulting in increased expenses.
"Frustrated visitors go elsewhere, get mad at the company, and/or end up having to use the phone -- costing the company as much as $45 per incident more than it would have cost had the issue been resolved online," writes report author Greg Gianforte. Gianforte is the founder and president of RightNow Technologies, a provider of online customer service products.
Web customers have come to expect immediate gratification, and poor response time can be detrimental to business. A recent study by e-commerce market analysis firm Jupiter Communications reveals that 42 percent of Web sites surveyed failed to provide adequate customer service, taking longer than five days to reply to customer e-mail inquiries, never replying at all, or not having an accessible e-mail address.
In an effort to assist e-commerce sites with CRM techniques, Gianforte's report addresses the eight basic attributes of effective e-service:
- Make sure your Web site listens -- Attention should be paid to both explicit and implicit customer requests.
- Give customers what they want -- Customer inquiries should be captured and the information should be used to enhance the site content for future visitors.
- Make responsive content and response mechanisms easy to find and easy to use -- In a nutshell, the white paper states, "Hidden content is the same as no content at all."
- The "80/20" rule -- Eighty percent of all site traffic is aimed at 20 percent of the content. Essentially, a small amount of content is responsible for most of the business so filling your site with the right content is critical.
- Get "pushy" -- E-mail notifications, when timed properly, can act as extensions for your Web site and motivate visitors to return.
- Respond fast -- E-mail response should be as quick as possible otherwise you run the risk of a disappointing a customer that wont be likely to return.
- Track religiously-- Consistent monitoring of customer requests allows for better focus of Web content.
- Automate, automate, automate -- An increase in site traffic can easily cause basic tasks to become neglected. Automation enables labor-intensive chores to be completed immediately, resulting in increased customer satisfaction.
The benefits of responsive e-service are multifold. Customer service can be operated at a reduced cost while also measuring an increased satisfaction rate. More emphasis can be put on the "relationship" portion of CRM, which can generally lead to increased traffic, advertising revenue, mindshare, and sales.
The white paper also includes a questionnaire designed to help companies measure their "EQ" e-service quality. The results can help to pinpoint the CRM areas that could use some improvement. The white paper, in its entirety, can be found at the RightNow Technologies Web site.
Robyn Greenspan is associate editor of eCRM Guide, an internet.com site where this story first appeared.