The internet economy has levelled the playing field allowing small businesses to compete with large corporates across many service and product sectors. The online retail space in particular has grown so significantly over the past few years as to be a very crowded and highly competitive market place. What do successful small businesses do to stand out from the crowd, delight their customers and generate repeat businesses in the digital age? And how easy is it for poor netiquette to disenfranchise existing and potential clients? Many businesses set up a website with no thought for customer care whereas others gain the competitive edge by offering excellent customer care. In the absence of bricks-and-mortar or a retail shop front, every interaction with your customers is an opportunity to delight or dissatisfy. I recently ordered an item of clothing as a birthday gift from an online retailer whom I had not previously shopped with. The item arrived with a printed postcard containing information about the company, contact details and so on. What stood out was a simple handwritten note on the postcard saying “Dear Amanda, Lovely to have you shop with us. Hope this lucky guy loves his organic Tshirt. Anna.” I felt valued and appreciated and will certainly shop there again … a loyal customer gained through the written word. Kudos to Sorella Organics (sorellaorganics.com.au) Here are some more Dos and Don’ts:
- Same day follow up – return a call or email on the same day, even in the absence of a response to the query. The online economy has contributed to our fast moving world and limited attention span. Yet very few online transactions are truly life or death. Most can wait to be resolved. Call or email the person to acknowledge the query on the same day e.g. “Dear Amanda, thanks for your email. I will respond with the information tomorrow when I am back in the office. “
- Writing emails – be concise and to the point; use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation; do not write in CAPITALS; take care with abbreviations and emoticons; check the size of file attachments. Make sure you always complete the subject line, which should grab the attention of the recipient and briefly identify the message contents.
- Voicemail – keep your voicemail message up to date, informing callers if you are unlikely to be able to return their call on the same day. Call your own number from another phone and listen to your voicemail message – note the tone, volume and words used, any background distractions/noise, is it helpful from the customers’ perspective?
- Website enquiries – check for incoming enquiries from your “Contact Us” page daily. No enquiries recently? Then check that the page and links are functioning correctly. I am still waiting for a response to my website enquiry to a service provider 4 days ago. The $300+ sale has now gone to someone else.
The moral of the story is to use the same etiquette that you would use in person-to-person contact. Anything less is a missed opportunity for you to delight your customer; and a new opportunity for your online competitors.