It used to be that the business owner could set the tone for how he wanted his business run. Mom and pop hardware stores, for instance, insisted nothing could compete with the personal touch they provided. Some resisted change. Big newspapers and publishing companies used to be big players that set standards. But especially since the publishing industry today is being turned on its head, old ways of doing business need to change, and fast.
Today’s businesses need to become more customer-centered. Customers no longer want to kowtow to businesses, but rather have businesses kowtow to them and their pocketbooks. The kind of personal touch today’s customer expects is the online kind.
The time has passed when a customer will look in a phone book and dial a number to gain information. Online tools are quicker and more efficient ways of gathering information. Websites are conveniently accessible anytime of day, anywhere there is an Internet connection. Online tools help customers avoid annoying telephone practices like being transferred from department to department or put on hold for extended periods.
A New Way of Doing Business
Today’s customer will most likely search online for information before driving around town to shop for an item. He might even choose to place his order through an online form or by email, rather than using traditional methods.
To stay competitive, today’s businesses need to have a web presence that creates opportunities for interaction. But that isn’t all. A business should strive to have impeccable online customer satisfaction that closes deals.
Close Deals with Your Website
Today’s technology-savvy customers are very demanding. In order to make a satisfactory experience for them and to close a deal, it is important a website have adequate product information, opportunities for ordering, and links that work. The goal of any business website, of course, is to make converts. Here are a few examples of missteps a couple of businesses made that didn’t attend to these areas:
1. Order Form Omission
A certain drapery website has great product descriptions and photos. A customer can even zoom in on fabric choices. The site uses a shopping cart method that finishes with an online order form.
One featured item this site sells is a “festoon and jabot” style of drapery. The festoon is a balloon-style valance that is hung between two longer pieces of fabric (the jabot). The festoon and jabot valance pieces are sold as a set.
In the instruction section of their website, however, the drapery store suggests that for larger windows several festoons be added. The only problem is, there is no place on their order form for ordering separate festoons.
A customer who was recently placing an order worth over five-hundred dollars walked away from the order form without completing the sale because she couldn’t figure out how to include the extra festoons she needed.
The customer later contacted the company by email and learned she could order them by telephone, but in the meantime, days passed and this one order form omission cost the drapery company a significant sale that day.
In order to close deals, make sure your order form allows for every product you sell.
2. New Client Subscription Lost
A new family had moved into the area and wanted to subscribe to the local newspaper to have it delivered to their home. The homeowner went to the newspaper’s website and searched for subscription information. He even typed the word “subscription” into the site’s search bar, but found nothing.
The homeowner finally found a link that said, “Subscribe here”, but soon enough discovered it was for online subscriptions only that were accessible only to existing customers.
Frustrated, the homeowner eventually spotted a link with the words “a newspaper can be ordered using the online form”. He thought he’d finally gotten somewhere and clicked the link. To his dismay, the link led him to a page of garble. The link that could have earned a new customer for the newspaper was invalid. Who knows how many other subscriptions have been lost due to a faulty link.
Putting the Ball in the Client’s Court May Lose a Sale.
In all situations, it is important to be proactive in making a sale. Of course, you shouldn’t hound a potential client, but there is much you can do in the name of customer service to grow your clientele.
The homeowner in the situation above was told to phone the newspaper during business hours if he wanted to subscribe. The ball was put in the customer’s court, and the newspaper was left waiting.
The move to automated telephone answering has turned many customers away from telephone use. No one likes getting the run-around of being transferring or put on hold. A customer’s time is valuable too. If the client in this situation had wanted to phone-in, he would have to start with. He obviously chose to do business online instead—probably thinking it was more convenient.
How to Step Up the Game
Websites, email and online forms are more efficient ways to draw customers in. The local newspaper could have had money in the bank that same day had they closed the deal with an online form that worked. Instead, they are left waiting for the customer to come back.
While the drapery company was efficient in getting back to the customer by email, they too asked the customer to phone in the order. They could correct the order form as soon as possible and encourage the client to try again, or they could offer to call the client at a convenient time and process the order quickly for her.
To make your business thrive in this generation, start with having a professional designer create a seamless website:
- Forget the old rules and begin to think like today’s customer. Anticipate what will be looked for and incorporate the important ingredients into your website.
- Have your site tested.
- Make certain links work.
- Take customer feedback to heart.
- Be servant-like and proactive in your responses.
- Go the extra mile by asking yourself, “What can I do to close this sale?”
Creating the personal touch in business is still important, but it’s important to do it virtually. If you don’t, you risk being left behind due to lost sales.