Customer Service and Support in the E-Business Environment

When trying to develop loyal, lifetime customers there are many areas that need to be addressed. Customer relationship management (CRM) is a new approach to customer service that takes all of these areas into consideration. CRM is based on the principle that “customers are the core of a business and that a company’s success depends on effectively managing its relationship with them. CRM focuses on building long-term and sustainable customer relationships that add value both for the customer and the company.” (Introduction to E-Commerce, 2003, p.165-6) The following aspects are vital to maintaining effective customer support and customer service in today’s e-businesses. The life time value of a customer, FAQ’s, tailor programs, customization, handling returns, shopping carts, ease of use, security, call centers, and 24/7/365 feedback.

The first aspect to be discussed is the life time value of a customer. “Viewing customers with a lifetime value perspective, rather than on a transaction-by-transaction basis, is key to modern customer retention programs.” Businesses need to encourage customer satisfaction and fulfillment with their brand in order to ensure customer loyalty to their company. One way to encourage this is to offer competitive and comprehensive services. One such service is a feature that allows customers self-service for answering commonly asked questions. “Offering a place for customers to answer problems and discuss ideas creates a community of users.” (Introduction to E-Commerce, 2003, p. 167) This can be achieved by the use of an automated system.

Another service e-businesses can offer to encourage customer loyalty is tailored programs. “Personalized service is the ideal technology-assisted service a company can offer. These customer assistance solutions rely on real-time tailoring of Web content to the customer’s individual needs.” (Customer Service: Career Success Through Customer Satisfaction, 2005, p.149) An example of this would be the ability of a customer to track an order online, with the use of a tracking number, to get up to the minute details of the package’s location. Another service that customers find helpful is customization. Customization is a service that enables customers to personalize certain products, services, and tools to meet their own specific needs.

Customer return policies are also important in the e-business environment. For instance, if a customer purchases an item online, having a dependable and forthright return policy can increase the customer’s trust in the purchase and ultimately their loyalty to the company. An area of customer service that is a concern for all online businesses is the electronic shopping cart. This is an “order-processing technology that allows consumers to add items they want to purchase while they continue to shop. Customers are able to select items, review what they have selected, make alterations, and then complete their purchase.” (Introduction to E-Commerce, 2003, p.67) The easier it is for a customer to perform all of these functions, the more likely they are to become repeat or loyal customers. If a website is difficult to navigate or understand customers may go to other websites to make their purchases.

Probably the most important aspect of customer service for all e-businesses is online security for purchases. There are two primary security risks with which customers are concerned. These two areas include “the security of credit card transactions on the internet and potential privacy violations.” (Marketing, Second Edition, 2010, p. 513) Companies can use online privacy seals to instill trust in their customers. A privacy seal symbol indicates that a business abides by guidelines established by Truste and the Better Business Bureau Online. These seals symbolize a secure exchange of information between the customer and the business. Although the customer’s information is secure during the transaction, these privacy seals do not guarantee their information will be kept secure afterwards. Companies have to develop security measures and procedures within its organization to assure customers that their information will be kept secure and private.

Another important aspect of customer service is a call center. “A call center is an encompassing service office in which businesses take care of customer-service issues translated through various contact channels” such as emails and phone calls. Providing well-trained customer service representatives who have access to information such as customer history, prior purchases, and prior contacts is one way that a business can improve its customer service.” (Introduction to E-Commerce, 2003, p. 169) A business can either respond to its customers via the internet or through return phone calls. In either case, it should make solving the customer’s problem or issue a main priority. A happy customer is a repeat customer.

Finally, customers need to be able to give feedback about their experience. Whether it’s criticism or praise, customers want to be heard. Feedback can also be a useful tool for businesses. This information will let the company know what customer’s likes and dislikes are which will help improve overall quality. If a customer is unable to achieve satisfaction through an automated system businesses should have measures in place to attend to their needs immediately. This may be accomplished through either its call center or through an 800 number.

Customer service may be the most critical aspect of a company’s organization. Without customer retention, companies will fail. With the use of the aforementioned tools and services, businesses will be able to maintain its customer patronage and loyalty.

References

Grewal, D. & Levy, M. (2010). Marketing, Second Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Timm, P. (2005). Customer Service, Career Success Through Customer Satisfaction, Third

Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education.

Turban, E. & King, D. (2003). Introduction to E-Commerce. New Jersey: Pearson Education.