Direct-to-Customer Commerce


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

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, , , , , , , , , ,

Getting the proper point-of-view regarding Social Media

I’ve grown a little weary of all the people who claim to have a solution for how to make money with Social Media.

The problem, it seems to me, is figuring out how to view the role of social media.

I recall shortly after the internet began getting attention for retail purposes, some young consultants from IBM presented at a trade show to reveal the great insights they had gained into consumer behavior by aggregating internet sales data by region.  At the time, nearly everyone I spoke with in the direct marketing industry reacted to their presentation with a “ho hum.”  No big news.

Earlier, the company I was with got a promotion contract with Glaxo Wellcome to promote a “bulletin board system” to doctors.  We got the contract because we admitted that no one really had any experience in how to do this type of promotion.  Of course, we found out the BBS had to be promoted just like anything else.

So what is new about Social Media?  And what is the paradigm for getting the most out of it?

I have a hypothesis to answer both of these questions:

  • Think of social media as your own private media outlet.  You control all of the content.  You control all of the ads.  You are the editor, publisher and advertiser.

If this view is correct, then Social Media should fit into your media planning just like any other media channel.  For example, timing of content on Facebook should coincide with other promotions you’re running elsewhere.  Coupons on Twitter are “calls for action” which should follow the content … after all you have to get the message out, before you ask for the order.

If this view is correct, getting followers on Twitter or “likes” on Facebook are the equivalent of getting subscribers to a magazine or viewers on a television program.  Of course, the most significances of these followers or likers is that they are just yours.  There is no intermediary to filter what you say to them or when you say.  And that’s a big plus.


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


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