Customer Experience Featured Article

Want Great E-commerce Results? Focus on Customer Experience

 
December 02, 2014



It's not exactly a hidden point these days that customers are price-conscious. People are watching wallets very closely thanks to instability in the job front and increasing prices at the grocery store and the like. But despite this, there's one key point that businesses—particularly e-commerce startups—tend to forget: customer service will in many cases trump discounts, and those businesses that don't have a customer service focus may well lose out even if the prices offered therein are the best around.


A report from Lee Resources Inc proves the height of the stakes: 91 percent of customers who become unhappy with a business simply won't do business with that firm again, and for the most part, the biggest driver in unhappiness is a perceived lack of service. South Africa recently provided practical illustration with the anti-Cell C banner concept, with a customer believing that he wasn't getting the service he deserved, and as such, took his frustrations not to the corner bar or to Facebook (News - Alert) and instead bought a billboard specifically to denigrate the service provided.

That's the kind of thing that can do major damage—a billboard expressing such opinion is bad enough, but billboards like that have a tendency to make the news as well which serves only to compound the problem—to just about any brand, and to a startup in the e-commerce field, it could be a disaster that takes the entire company down with it. So what can e-commerce startups do to protect against this kind of thing? Focus on service.

While some firms operate under service level agreements (SLAs) that spell out specifically what services are to be provided for what considerations, this goes beyond that into just about any firm that serves a customer directly. For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) like e-commerce startups, it's often a question of resources. Cash-strapped businesses need to pay the bills, and as such, often drop staffing levels or the like that deal directly with the customer. Even larger enterprises sometimes fall down on this job, not knowing how best to serve the customer as said customer gets lost amid the heaps of issues needing addressed regularly.

Thus, a business that puts a particular focus on the customer—being customer-centric, as some call it—are more likely to survive in the long term because those businesses actually encourage customers to come back and offer up repeat business. Competing on price and product any more is particularly difficult, as increasingly, products are commodities and the price is largely determined by the market as a whole, so businesses offering savings at the cost of customer service are likely doing more harm than good in the long run.

Businesses need to come around to one key line of thinking: it often doesn't matter—at least to a certain degree—how much a product costs if getting it causes more problems than it solves. People buy things for one reason: the benefit of owning such an item is actually superior to the value of keeping the money that would be used to purchase it. If a company's offerings cost $30, save $40 worth of time but cost $20 worth of hassle and headache to get, the product has no value. It's seldom that cut-and-dried, of course, but the point remains. E-commerce startups looking to get and keep customers need to focus on value above all else, and customer service has more value than some may expect.




Edited by Alisen Downey

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