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FutureNow Post
Friday, Dec. 7, 2007 at 6:11 am

Online Retailers Fail Customer Experience 101

By Bryan Eisenberg
December 7th, 2007

F_Grade.jpgMy Company (Future Now) just released its “2007 Retail Customer Experience Survey,” revealing both good and bad news.

Bad news first. In aggregate, online retailers fall far short of offering good or even adequate customer experiences. A pathetic 4 out of 330 sites would get a passing grade in Customer Experience 101. It’s frightening to consider how much money is being left on the table and how many conversion opportunities are missed.

The good news? Companies show improvement over the last survey, though they’re falling short on many basics. These basics, however, can be relatively easily addressed and fixed. Companies committed to improving their customers’ online experiences can prioritize lower-cost and less-complex changes to improve their customer experience scores.

Improving Customer Experience Basics

While it’s easy to stare at the puddle of spilled milk and fight back the tears, there’s little profit in it. It’s a bit painful to get a less-than-stellar grade, but the smart marketer will look at missed opportunities and be sure not to miss them again. Provide an intense customer focus, and you’ll see more customers vote for you with their wallets.

Here are some actions retailers can take in the four key customer areas:

  • For fulfillment options, offer:
    • Product availability.
    • Easily visible return policies, shipping policies, and guarantees.
    • Customer-friendly and easy-to-read and -understand return/exchange policies.
    • Gift options.
  • For checkout options, include:
    • Multiple payment options (e.g., by check, PayPal, etc.).
    • Estimated delivery times, and show in-stock availability for items.
    • In-store pickup where physical stores exist.
    • A progress indicator in the checkout process.
    • Simpler or fewer steps or both in the checkout process.
    • Third-party seals and security assurances.
  • For customer service options, implement:
    • Faster and more accurate replies to customer e-mail inquiries.
    • Chat options.
    • A visible phone number for questions and problems.

All these are significant factors that customers have come to expect online. Your customers notice little things that can make a huge difference. Companies that lavish attention on improving customer focus will reap more sales and will experience superior customer-retention rates in the long term.

You can continue reading on my column on ClickZ or read the full study on GrokDotCom.

Add Your Comments

Comments (8)

  1. I think a drawback of having such useful analytics and metrics available is that we sometimes forget to look at what matters most: customer experience. A lot of the points you mentioned seem to be common sense, yet retailers are still ignoring and/or overlooking.

    Great data. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great post.

    Your readers might want to try a leading customer service review site.

  3. [...] fact, I could argue that Response metrics are really about your selling process, not the customer buying process – response is not a customer-centric measurement approach.  Response doesn’t take into [...]

  4. [...] rich editorial content could help them navigate the labyrinth of choice. Grokdotcom lists “better and more enticing product descriptions” as the biggest area in which retailers [...]

  5. [...] contacting the vendor. This is a result of companies missing the mark on successfully meeting our customer experience basic [...]

  6. [...] contacting the vendor. This is a result of companies missing the mark on successfully meeting our customer experience basic [...]

  7. It amazes me how often customer experience is disregarded even today. Quite often businesses will be in search of SEO to increase traffic. However, sometimes the best ROI is to ensure they create an experience which generates sales but more importantly return sales.

  8. It’s really strange but even such online leaders like Facebook offer practically quite crappy user experience. Yet, this doesn’t seem to bother their users, maybe just me.

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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