A recently publicized survey of online retailers showed that there is much room for improvement in the way they treat customers. In the survey, sample email messages were sent to major shopping sites and the results timed. Almost half of all merchants surveyed did not respond to the requests within one day, and about one-third of the sites surveyed never replied at all.
What this says for many online retailers is that they don’t consider customer service essential. They may have decided that they only want customers who can find the products they want on their own, or that they don’t want customers that make unusual requests of the merchant. Either way, it can’t be helping their sales numbers to be ignoring a significant group of potential customers.
One site that stood out in the survey was Amazon.com, which answered customer emails within 24 hours. Amazon, more than most, understands the power of customer service, that good service translates into good word of mouth, which brings in more customers. These are lessons long ago learned by offline, bricks and mortar retailers. One of them, Kmart, reportedly is facing bankruptcy due in part to its attitude towards customers.
My experiences with online shopping sites have been generally positive, but in other areas online transactions still need much improvement. My biggest peeve is with Internet domain registrars. I register a lot of domains for myself and my customers, and I have found the customer service of most companies I have dealt with to be atrocious. My messages are frequently lost, and replies often take days. Because I am spending hundreds of dollars a year with these services, I expect a timely and pertinent reply to my very infrequent queries.
Instead I generally have to wait a long time for what reads like a canned and irrelevant email response from a customer service person. These replies indicate a deliberate misunderstanding of my request, so that the person can shuffle my email away without having to do any real work to solve my issue.
And what’s worse, these companies make you wait days for a response. So when you do get one of the pre-canned and incorrect ones, and you send back a reply asking them to really answer your question, your message goes back into the queue and you won’t hear back from them for another few days. And should you try to call them on the phone, be prepared to wait 30 minutes or more to speak to a live rep.
This is the true failure of online customer service. In a phone conversation, if the person at the other end misunderstood my request I could immediately clarify it, and they wouldn’t be able to get away with brushing me off as they do in their emails. These companies mistakenly think that we will do business with them just because they drop their prices to have the lowest fee for domain registrations. The truth is I would pay more to have my issues dealt with in a timely way. I have already switched registration companies twice due to poor customer service, and if I need to do it again I won’t hesitate one minute.
And that should be required reading for all online merchants.
Article – Copyright 2002 Hugh Brower. Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.