Direct-to-Customer Commerce

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Strategic insights into the direct commerce industry, including ecommerce, direct marketing and related fields

Is there nothing new under the sun?

Not as much as people think.

Chief Marketer published an article this week, entitled “The Accountability Opportunity.” The premise of the article is that marketing operations need to be held accountable for their efforts. Rather than simply measure output — press releases, events held, advertising placed, etc. — marketers need to produce measureable results.

While this is certainly a concept I heartily endorse, I continue to be impressed by the number of people who view this as something new.

The entire premise of the direct marketing industry is the measurability of results. People who come to a store, visit a web site, buy a product. Something that can be measured.

The general marketing community needs to get over itself and take a look at what the direct marketing community has been doing for a hundred years.

Learn what’s already being done.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

This is not new.

You get my drift.

Filed under: Direct Commerce, Uncategorized

Repeat Customer Remain the Key to Success

In today’s issue of Direct Newsline, an electronic newsletter from Direct Magazine, appears the headline: Repeat Online Visitors Make Better Buyers.

The story reports on an analysis from WebSideStory, which documents that repeat visitors to merchant sites convert to buyers at the rate of 12.6% compared to 1.5% for first time visitors.

WebSideStory goes on to document how these conversion rates differ for various industries, but repeat visitors always have dramatically better conversion rates than first time visitors. WebSideStory concludes, “For marketers of e-commerce sites, this data further drives home the importance of building customer loyalty online.”

My only “beef” with their conclusion is the narrowness of their focus. Let’s face it. Building repeat business is important for every channel, not just online.

The first time you interact with a potential customer, regardless of the channel, that propsect is asking, “Can I trust this company to treat me right?” “Are their products/services a good value for the price?” “If I have a problem will they resolve it quickly and fairly?”

If you get a second chance to interact with this same potential customer, it’s an indication that you succeeded in providing positive answers to those questions, the first time, so, they’re giving you another chance to prove yourself.

Each succeeding interaction increases your chance of really doing business with each customer.

When you finally succeed in getting an order from a customer, you’ve got your first real chance to prove yourself worthy of their business.

Isn’t it somewhat obvious that it’s easier to keep an existing customer than it is to find a new one? That’s why good fulfillment or operational execution is so important and why customer service is critical. If you mess up the execution, customer service may, emphasis on may, be able to save the customer. But doing it right the first time is easier and cheaper than trying to make up for a mistake through customer service.

Filed under: Direct Commerce, Uncategorized

Perfecting the Perfect Order

Kate Vitasek and Karl Manrodt wrote, in the May 10 issue of Operations & Fulfillment Advisor, a weekly electronic newsletter under the headline, Perfecting the Perfect Order. Essentially, their article advocates a new customer service measure which attempts to measure fulfillment execution against the customer’s expectations.
I like much of what they say. However, as they point out, most of the applications systems currently used to fill orders don’t allow us capture all of the information necessary to actually calculate this new “perfect order” metric.

There are really two typical shortfalls.

[1] Our systems don’t always capture what the customer wants. For example, do we know when the customer needs or wants delivery? Most consumer-oriented fulfillment systems don’t even allow for future ship-dates, much less future “receive-by” dates. And the most important date is when the customer wants to receive their order.

[2] Most of our systems do not capture actual delivery dates. Certainly, some do. And as Vitasek and Manrodt point out, the data is available from most carriers (even USPS captures this on most parcel shipments). But generally, we don’t get the data and don’t compare it to what the customer wanted, because we don’t even ask the customer what they want, we just assume they’ll be happy with when we ship it and when they get it.

Vitasek and Manrodt also wax philosophical about the definition of a “complete order.” My only disagreement is they make too much out of it; even while pointing out that their own definition is almost impossible to measure.

Overall, they make good points about how to measure real performance of order fulfillment activities. They’ve moved the ball forward.

Filed under: Direct Commerce, Uncategorized, ,

World Class Customer Service

I continue to read a lot in the trade press about how to provide World Class Customer Service. There’s a list of the 10 top tips, three things to avoid, 25 keys, 12 most common failures.

And there’s truth in all of these lists.

But complying with check lists is not the key. You have to discover the principles of world class customer service and engraine them in the culture of your customer service staff, your application programmers and your web developers.

Tell your customers what they can expect from you — not in an FAQ or policy statement. Send them an email or tell them when you have them on the phone.

Identify your customers’ expectations — that’ means you’ll know if your customer’s expectations of you and what you plan on doing are in sync.

Synchronize your customer service with your customers’ expectations — if these are not in sync, deal with it right away, don’t wait for the customer to call you back, or send an email inquiry.

Applying these principles means your application systems will have to be flexible enough to deal with a lot of exceptions — a common short fall of immature applications.

The best advise I’ve read recently is this:

  1. Make a list of the top ten customer service complaints
  2. Develop a solution for all ten complaints
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 — again and again and again

Filed under: Direct Commerce, Uncategorized

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