12 June 2006

Just how important is customer service on the internet?

I have very definite views on this subject which are reinforced by my own buying traits. To me the very first stage when creating an online strategy is working out “how do I want to be perceived by my customers and am I prepared to deliver on my values?”

The answer to these 2 questions will probably determine the success or failure of your venture. To attract new business it is imperative that you demonstrate that you are a helpful organisation, so a well written site that has a clear navigation structure and helpful information is an essential ingredient. It is also a great investment and one that can save time and money in the long run. Make sure you show your address and include directions to show to prospective clients that you are proactive communicators. Are you yourself more likely to buy from a site that has all the information readily at hand?

Promising excellent customer service is one thing, now you have to deliver. Winning new business is important but keeping existing clients is even more so. It is important to treat your clients how you want to be treated yourself. So many businesses are great at winning contracts but then do not value the clients once they have them. Research shows that it is much more expensive winning new business as opposed to keeping existing clients happy. To ensure you deliver on the customer care aspect, I recommend you pay particular attention to staff training and motivation. A happy team will generate far more energy and positive communication which results in happy clients, than a mediocre or demoralised one. Unfortunately most business men and woman normally learn this lesson at the cost of their business. If you are able to learn this lesson early on in your business life, it will accelerate your growth.

Employing the right candidates in your recruitment process is also very important as it will be your team ultimately carrying out your customer service strategy. We have a very strict recruitment policy at UKFast, which includes a psychometric test which hones in on a candidates strengths or weaknesses. I am often asked, “is this a fair way to access staff?” I believe so, it is one of a number of points in quite a long process, however I believe it is important to help a prospective candidate find out about themselves too. There is no point putting someone into a position even though they have applied for it, when they are unable to perform the task. It will only create unnecessary conflict and stress in the long run. I have been in the fortunate position to be able to guide people into a career path which is more suited to their personality, giving them evidence explaining my findings. I have never been met with anything other than a positive response for my contribution and the overwhelming majority thanks me for pointing out something they already knew deep down.

So in short. Get the right staff from the outset. Train them to be passionate and diligent and make sure your marketing material online reflects this core value. It is rare in today’s business community and customers will thank you for it.

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