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Hello? Hello? Is There Anybody Out There?

Nov 27, 2007
I read recently about a survey of major consumer companies with Web sites. The survey was looking at how well the Web sites received and responded to customer comments. According to the survey, more than half of their Web sites either had no way for people to make an enquiry on-line or - if they did have such a method they didn't bother responding within ten working days.

Ten days????

Don't they realise that Internet users expect instant gratification? And if not instant, at least within a reasonable time frame (Hint: Think ten hours and you're in the right ballpark).

Waiting ten days is worse than poor customer service - it's an insult.

Who are these companies? Well, I'm not going to mention any names, so as not to embarrass AMP, ANZ Bank, Australia Post, Ford, Greater Union, Nestle, Optus, Qantas, Pizza Hut, Ray White, Singapore Airlines, Sony, Visa and Vodaphone ... just to not mention a few ...

But wait! There's some good news...

The good news is this: You can do it better. Maybe you can't compete with these retail giants when it comes to advertising campaigns, outlets in every suburb, range of products, or their opening hours. So what? You can provide a much better experience for your Web site visitors.

And guess what? The big companies are so bad, that it's so easy to out-do them. And it doesn't require a fancy automated customer service system. All it takes is your e-mail program, a few words on your Web site, and the right attitude.

Here's how:

1. On your Web site, encourage people to e-mail you. Just write some friendly words, saying that you welcome their comments.

2. Set their expectations by telling them when they can expect a reply. For example, you could say that all e-mails are answered within two working days.

3. Create a special e-mail address for handling these comments, and publish that address on your Web site.

4. Set up your e-mail program to recognise these messages as they come in so that you can read them right away to decide what action to take. Modern e-mail programs can check for e-mail sent to a certain address and mark it as high priority, forward it to somebody else, or file it in a special place.

5. When you reply, make it a personal reply. In other words, the reply comes from a person, not a nameless, faceless "Customer Service Department".

6. Thank the person for their comments. It's even worth looking for a way to send them a small gift. Remember that their feedback is valuable: They took the time to reply, while others who had a problem might have silently given up on you.

7. Make a note to yourself to send a follow-up e-mail to the customer to check that the issue really has been resolved.

OK, the exact process might be slightly different for you, but I'm sure you get the point.
About the Author
Ranju assistant to Gihan Perera is the author of "The Seven Fatal Mistakes That Most Web Site Owners Make - And How To Avoid Them" and "Spin: Turn One Idea Into Hundreds of Information Products". Visit GihanPerera.com and get your complimentary copies now.
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