Store Owners Beware

June 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Customer Retention

I wanted to post a quick thought here that all store owners should consider.

Change can be good — sometimes — especially if it is meant to decreased expenses (thus directly affecting the bottom line.) However, change that has not been planned out properly or change that does not take into consideration customer needs and wants can cause trouble.

I recently worked with a store owner who thought that switching shipping companies would save them some expense over the previous shipping company (which did a great job … but had slightly higher prices.) In theory, and on paper this might have been true. However, without proper planning and without taking their current and potential customers interest into consideration, the event turned out to be a disaster … causing long time customers to leave, new customers to never return (even canceling orders), and a customer service nightmare for those working the phones.

You see, the store may have thought that looking at the sheer numbers (from a shipping rate standpoint only) that the one carrier with lower rates would have saved them money. It makes sense … if you only look at that.

But running an ecommerce business — or any business for that matter — means you must take into consideration much more than just “perceived cost”.

The customers feedback all basically said the same thing … “I’d rather pay a few dollars more to get my package on time and fast then to not get it at all or get it much later than expected.”

Considering the lifetime value of customers that will not be realized due to leaving, the new customers never returning, and the bad word that is surely to spread across the internet about them, the company has dug themselves a hole that is going to take a lot of energy to correct. Rather than saving money on shipping they ended up losing a ton of money both now and also potential future realized revenue.

So the next time you consider making changes to your shipping (or anything else to save a few bucks) operations, make sure you do your homework first, plan next, and when all the information is presented, be sure to choose the option that benefits your customers most.

Unexpected Customer Appreciation Hits the Spot

August 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Customer Retention, Uncategorized

Today I went to the post office to check the mailbox and found a nice albeit unexpected surprise waiting for me.

Let me briefly set the stage. I write and contribute a number of monthly articles for both online and offline publishers and have been doing this for sometime now. One of those online publishers EzineArticles.com knows a little something about customer appreciation.

EzineArticle.com Expert Author GiftI get to the post office and along with the other mail I find a small square box with the Ezine Articles logo on the outside. My curiosity is piqued by now and I’m wondering what I ordered?

I open the box and to my surprise I see a nice coffee mug, a bag of coffee, and a note thanking me for being a part of the community and contributing to Ezine Articles.

Ecommerce store owners take note—this type of pro-active customer interaction works! I’m not saying you have to send free gifts to all your customers, but I have said in previous posts that a simple and unexpected hand written note or “bonus” here and there won’t hurt. It builds loyal customers not to mention happy customers.

Not that I needed it to keep writing for them, but it certainly cemented my relationship with Ezine Articles.

Do you reward or surprise your customers? If so how? If not, why? Part of customer retention is keeping your current customers happy. What would happen if you sent an unexpected gift to your current top customers? I’m sure the impact of that small gesture would reach far beyond what you think.

Just look at this case, EzineArticles.com probably had no intention of getting mentioned for their efforts. But their simple gesture of appreciation did just that.

Thanks guys!

Customer Service Gone Wrong

September 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Poor Customer ServiceAs if it isn’t already hard enough to generate sales and gain customers in this economic age, here’s a recent experience you must hear to believe.

I recently spoke with a woman who described an experience she had while attempting to shop at an online store. This is the brief account of that day.

She was looking for a particular tropical fish cake pan to use for her son’s upcoming birthday. After searching high and low for the exact one she saw in a picture, she found it at an online store of who’s name I’ll withhold out of respect for them — they’ve got enough bad reviews and terrible internet exposure that adding one more to their mountain of “bad PR” is just a waste of time.

The site did not indicate whether the item was in stock (“no no #1”), and to be certain, she called them to inquire about its availability.

I’ll sum up the shocking conversation that following in a several bullet points rather than going into great detail.

The Conversation

  1. She picks up the phone and calls the store using the phone number provided on the site. You would think this is a good thing — giving customers a way to reach you. After all, answering a question can help close a sale. Think again. A store rep answers the phone and the lady proceeds to ask if they have the fish cake pan in stock that was seen on the website.
  2. The rep replied telling the lady she could drive out to the store and search through the 2 isles of cake pans to see if they had the pan she needed, but was not willing to go look for her.
  3. The store happen to be about 1 hour from where the lady lived, and she told the rep on the phone this.
  4. She asked again (several times) if the rep had a method to search for the pan to see if it was in stock so she could purchase it. The rep began to get agitated.
  5. The rep told the lady that she was not willing to go look through the items in stock and that if the lady wanted the item she should come search for it herself. (Yes, this is what was actually said if you can believe it.)
  6. After back and forth conversation on why she could not look for the item, the rep on the phone said “let me put you on hold”. The potential customer, happen to have a timer on the phone she was using, and after waiting for about 14 minutes on hold finally hung up.
  7. She called the store back 30 minutes later and the same rep answered. The lady asked about the pan again, and said she was waiting on hold for close to 14 minutes so she hung up to which the once again “gruf rep” replied “Oh, I must have forgot about you.”
  8. The lady asked if the rep had found whether the pan was in stock or not. The rep answered “I don’t know, you’ll have to drive out and look for yourself. I fill 200 orders a day from the Internet, and I don’t have time to look for the pan.” (Shocking eh? I thought so.)
  9. She told the rep that if she was not willing to check if the item was in stock or not then she would “take her business elsewhere” to which the now very agitated rep replied “I think that is a good idea. You should take your business elsewhere.” The conversation ended there.

Closing Thoughts

What this store obviously forgot is that there is no substitute for good customer service and satisfying customer needs is what grows a business.

The store’s lack of customer service did not cause them to lose just one customer and one sale — the lack of customer service caused the them to lose any other customers that would have been referred to them if the lady had a better experience when trying to purchase the pan.

Likewise, their actions will have a lasting ripple effect which will prohibit the company from growing, obtaining new customers, and of which will eventually be the downfall of it.

Apparently the store rep thought 200 sales a day was a lot and was not willing to get an extra one (which could lead to many more via word of mouth). Growing a business is not important to them and eventually they will fail.

If that store rep worked for me, I’d fire her. Turns out that “rep” was actually the owner of the store. How’s that for customer service?

Lesson learned.