Direct-to-Customer Commerce

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

You don’t have customer until the second purchase

When a customer buys from you the first time, it’s a test.  It’s a test of you and your business:

  • is the product what I expected?
  • was it easy to complete my purchase
  • did they treat me right?
  • did it arrive when and as expected?
  • if I have an issue, will they resolve it quickly and the way I want it resolved?

The answers to these questions will either increase or decrease the likelihood of a second purchase.  And if they do buy a second time, you probably really have a customer — good for you.

11 Personal Gestures to Turn Casual Buyers into Lifelong Customers  — this is a post from Practical Ecommerce that suggests additional things you can do to make a tentative Customer (that is, first-time buyer) into a Lifelong Customer.

Good points to consider for your business

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Filed under: Direct Commerce, Ideas, Opinion, , , , , , ,

9 Steps to Multichannel Commerce

This is a slide deck, which I produced and uploaded to slideshare.net.  Click here.

Filed under: multichannel commerce, , , , , , , , , ,

Cash registers fade away as smartphones, tablets take over

This trend was very foreseeable.  And anyone who doesn’t see it, needs to re-evaluate.  Here’s a link the this story by the AP, published by Gannett … Link

Note even Walmart is experimenting with an iPhone app that enables a shopper to scan items as the shopper drops them into her cart.  Stopping at a self-check-out terminal only to pay and perhaps bag up the items.

And if you’ve never used the “self-pay” function in Apple’s Store app, you should try it.  Scan an item, login with your Apple ID, pay with your registered credit card, email yourself the receipt and walk out of the store.  You can do it with any item that is not stored in the back of the store (which includes the big, very valuable items, as you would expect).

Once again, we talking about convenience to the customer … it’s a never-ending theme, but I’m always amazed at how few people get it.

Personally, I’m waiting for my grocery store to allow me to email my receipt … I hate those long pieces of paper!

Filed under: Ideas, multichannel commerce, News, Opinion, , , , , , , ,

Defining and Measuring Good Customer Service

One of the keywords I monitor is customer service.

I remain impressed with how many people think about it, and how we dance around the edges without really getting to the heart of the matter. (at least, that’s the way I see it)

It seems to me that good customer service can only be measured by a customer.  Yet, many of us try to estimate a measure of customer service by measuring something other than the customer:

  • on-time-delivery
  • speed of answer (in a call center)
  • wait time
  • average handle time
  • percent of calls with 1st call resolution
  • return rates

These are each appropriate measures of something — and I’m not advocating that we stop measuring them.  But they do not equate to good customer service.

Good customer service equals meeting a customer’s expectations regarding how a transaction should go.  From checking out, to getting the product, to handling a return, to dealing with a problem that crops up along the way.

I think we should be making following up calls to a persistent percentage of customers who complete orders and a set of customers who did not complete orders.  Here are the questions:

  1. If you did not complete an order, why not?
  2. If you did complete an order, were you satisfied with how the entire process was handled?  Y/N
  3. If No, what went wrong?
  4. If No, did we handle the problem the way you wanted us to? Y/N

You see, it doesn’t matter if we think we handled an order correctly.  It doesn’t matter whether we think we handled a problem correctly.

The only thing that matters is what the customer thinks.

Do you know what your customers think about your customer service?

There is a direct correlation between customer service satisfaction and repeat buying rates.  And it’s cheaper to motivate a customer to buy again, than it is to find a new, first-time buyer.

Filed under: Direct Commerce, Ideas, , , ,

Testing Same Day Delivery

The Wall Street Journal reported, today, on eBay and Amazon testing same-day delivery in a couple of major markets.  Here’s a link to the story.

In the San Francisco area, eBay has hired a crew of people, essentially, concierge shoppers, who will locate the product you want at a local store, buy and deliver it to you within one hour of the time you place the order.  Wow, quite a high level of customer service.

Don’t expect this to be a viable service in Yuma, Arizona.

I’m not sure it would be viable even in all of the top ten markets in the US.  But it will be very interesting to watch it.

Based upon the anecdotes of the article, we can imagine this service being used by customers in major markets (where there may be sufficient aggregated demand for such a service) for whom convenience carries a very high value and who is less price sensitive than average.

I think that’s a pretty limited market … but the beauty of the web / ecommerce, is, in part, it’s ability to aggregate demand in ways we’ve never been able to do under earlier retail models.

The economics of same-day delivery are very difficult to make work.

We’ll know same-day delivery has worked when FedEx, UPS and the USPS begin to offer the service.  But don’t hold your breath!

Filed under: Direct Commerce, Ideas, News, Opinion, , , , , , , , , , , ,

When Customer Service is Marketing

This is the title of a post by Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief, Direct Marketing News.  You can read it here.

She writes about the proactive messaging from several companies in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy hitting NJ & NY.  I agree with her point, as far as she goes.  But she doesn’t go far enough.

Customer Service is always marketing.

Every time you have an interaction with a customer, a transaction with a customer, it’s marketing.  The customer is testing whether she/he can trust you enough to do business with you.  It’s hard to gain that trust and easier than it should be to lose it.

If you don’t see Customer Service as Marketing … you’re missing an important factor and may be losing a lot of customers.  Although, if it’s any consolation, there are too many businesses in that same boat.

Filed under: Direct Commerce, Ideas, Opinion, , , , , ,

Customer Engagement v Customer Service

I’m going to write about this again later, but here’s a link to a blog post by Seth Godin on Customer Service.  It’s entitled, The only purpose of ‘customer service’.

He makes a great point about customer service, so contemplate what he says about customer service.  Then, consider how, when talking about social media and marketing, so many people are discussing customer engagement.

I don’t mean to infer that customer engagement is the same thing as customer service.  I don’t think it is.  But I probably do think customer service is more important than customer engagement.

We’re using words in marketing these days, which suggests we can create a nearly intimate relationship between a business and its customers.  And I think that borders on the ridiculous.

I admit, I’m a real fan of Five Guys, a franchise that sells hamburgers and fries.  Their second store is right near my home and I’ve been eating there for a long time.  But I remain a fan, because their burgers remain among the best I eat.  And they’re a good value, from a price point of view.  So, I’m a fan because they continue to provide me a good product at what I consider a good price.

When they fail to do that, they may lose me as a fan.

If you want to set customer engagement as a goal for your company … go for it.  But only after you get everything else correct, first.

Filed under: Direct Commerce, multichannel commerce, Opinion, , , , , ,

The sixth step to multi-channel commerce

Step 6 is about customer service.

Customer service poses an interesting problem for multi-channel merchants.  A common complaint about customer service at brick & mortar stores is that a shopper often can’t find anyone to even take their money, much less help them with a problem.  And I suspect this is at least one factor in driving some people to the web, where customer-self-service is more possible.

In the direct commerce environment, merchants often are faced with a conflicting dilemma.  Customer service remains an expensive proposition, even when it’s over the phone or via some text based medium (SMS, chat, Twitter, email, Facebook), because it takes so many people.

However, on the other side, customer service is often a merchant differentiator.  So, it’s well within the self-interest of merchants to provide as good a customer service experience as possible.

Seth Godin, in his blog, on Sep 26, 2012, wrote:   The simplest customer service frustration question of all … “Why isn’t this as important to you as it is to me?”

And the reality, it often seems, is that a customer’s problem is rarely as important to the merchant as it is to the customer.  But that is so easy to change, if merchant leadership decides to do it.

Nearly everyone has had horrible customer service experiences and nearly everyone has had great ones.  Customer Service staff needs to have the authority to fix customer issues and the tools to do so.

In addition, customer service should be reachable via a channel or medium of the customer’s choice … a list of options which is continuing to grow:

  • phone
  • web self service
  • chat
  • SMS (short message service), aka text messaging
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • electronic mail

And here’s an important reminder:  Customer Service should come before your web site.  It rarely does, but it should.  Because the moment your web store goes live, you’ll need customer service.

Filed under: Direct Commerce, Ideas, multichannel commerce, , , , , , , , , ,

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