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Customer Service Online – What You MUST Know
By Rhonda F. Waters   Printer Friendly Version

If you think customers are demanding, you are right! Customers used to doing business in a corporeal world expect accurate and prompt information and service. New technologies are also demanding.  For some people, just using the Internet can be an issue without adding how to monitor customer service.  Learning to deal with both things at the same time is very challenging, but not as hard as you might believe.   You probably spent serious money and time getting your beautiful web page up, and now you wonder why you are not getting sales.   This article is not about web design, although your site design can be integral when considering sales.  I am talking about making sure that what you have now is working optimally.  The first four ‘must-knows' deal with technology and the last three methods are more people oriented.

Using technology will not prevent you from having to deal directly with customers! The point of the technology is to allow you to reach even MORE customers. A web page is much more than a print ad.  People who send you e-mail treat them much more like telephone calls.    Part of deciding if your page is working well has to do with the people who are responding to your customers, and potential customers.  I will deal more with that in further newsletter issues.


Check the methods listed below:


DO THESE THINGS YOURSELF!!  Part of your problem might be that the people who are responsible for your site may not be checking on how well it is running.  They may not know how.  Depending on your contract, your site host, or webmaster/mistress, will probably fix any problems, but identifying when you are having a problem might be YOUR responsibility!


  1. Identify that your site is actually up, every day.  A simple way to do this is to make your site your homepage.  So every time you sign online you will see that your page is still up on its server.  If a gray box opens and asks if you want to use a ‘cached copy', you are having a problem.  It might not be serious, but if it happens frequently or lasts over an hour contact whoever is hosting your site and find out what is going on.  A cached copy is one which your computer has automatically saved from a previous viewing.

  1. Go through all the pages and make sure that they load properly.  See how long it takes for them to completely open and make sure that everything is where it should be.  Make sure all the pictures are loading in a reasonable amount of time too.  If it takes longer than a 5 seconds per page people might not wait.  You might want to change some pictures to condensed ones that appear smaller and viewers can click on them to get bigger ones, if they choose.


  1. Occasionally, just read your page as if it was the first time.  Does it still make sense to you?  Did you somehow miss a typo? Has your business changed?  Have you moved/expanded? Do you need to update it?  Web pages are not static, they need to be changed to keep up with your organization, and to keep people (you know, customers) interested.


  1. Check all your ‘click-thrus', or links.   Go to the places on your page that should link you to other places, and make sure that you go there.  This is especially important when you are putting up a new page or making any changes. If you do not remember what they were supposed to do, do not be surprised.  The site should follow whatever tabs are shown on the home page.  If you click the ‘testimonials' page tab, you should go to the testimonials page.  Links on all the pages should go to their assigned places as well.


  1. Make sure that your e-mail goes where it should.  You might have designated one person to answer all incoming mail from the web page, that person might have changed departments, or left the company (perhaps under not so nice circumstances, if you get my meaning).  Your webmaster may no longer be in business!  Hey, they move on too.  Keep in contact with them periodically. Your problem might be ‘mechanical'.  The page might need to be checked for proper routing from the server.  To test the system, send e-mail from every possible site on your page.  Leave messages to contact you as soon as the message is received.  Be sure the message says where you are sending it from.  Something like; ‘Training page test message see the big Kahuna immediately.'


  1. Make sure that you have procedures for dealing with e-mail.  Some companies have all the e-mail printed and assign them to specialists who understand the questions being asked.  Some companies have a person or an auto reply message that lets people know that their message has been received and will be dealt with shortly.


Always answer email within 24 hours, preferably a lot shorter.  Many times the fastest reply gets the fastest orders.  It takes work to get customers to your site, don't blow all that work by not responding in a positive manner to their questions, observations, or concerns.  The purpose of this article is not to get you to run out of your office yelling at staff-people.  Online customer service is still a very new field and people are still in a learning curve.  If you walk through the steps above, and you find places that need improvement, you can deal with them in a useful manner.  The point is to enhance your customer service response in an e-commerce world.

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