Lessons for online stores
I am a strong advocate of online shopping and have been evangelizing the savings and benefits of shopping online to my peers and through this blog.
This is a story where an online store lost a potential sale because of its inability to provide the most basic customer service.
In December 2011, I was looking around for an online store to purchase an HTC smart phone, a replacement for the Apple iPhone that I lost. I came across KimStore. A lot of bloggers and forum discussions were raving about this online store because it was selling original items and offers the lowest price compared to your standard brick & mortar store. In short, I decided to purchase my phone from KimStore. I was satisfied with my initial purchase but then I sensed something was off.
Delays, delays, delays
I noticed, that during the course of my transaction with KimStore, the text/SMS replies were a bit delayed (4-6 hours). Realizing the popularity of the site, the owner, or whoever is behind the text/SMS responses, might have been inundated with a lot of inquires from potential buyers and therefore could not keep up with the volume of text messages so I just shrugged it off and didn’t mind it at all.
Recently, I decided to inquire about a gadget from her store and to see if the response time has improved. Sad to say it hasn’t. I texted the mobile numbers posted on the website and even called the landline number numerous times but nobody seems to be answering. An information on the website indicating the business hours would have eased the pain and frustration. I wondered why the owner didn’t care much about this detail as it was very basic.
If the problem was the volume of text/SMS, a system can be bought to allow a store owner to answer text/SMS using a computer instead of a cellphone. Using this system, the store owner can effectively keep track of inquiries from one single system without having to jump from one cellphone to another. The text/SMS can then be fed to a customer relationship management (CRM) system so you can tell if the text is from an existing customer or a new one. You can even use the CRM to follow up or cross-sell items to that same customer.
Differentiating yourself from the competition
In this time and age, when you have competitors selling the same stuff and price as you do, it is important that you differentiate yourself from the competition. You can read a lot of marketing books that will tell you how to do this but the most basic is customer service. Customers expect a certain degree of service where the seller is supposed to answer customer inquiries in the most pain-free manner. How can you answer customer inquiries if no one is answering your phone or is replying to text messages?!
To cut the story short, I ended up inquiring (and buying) the stuff from KimStore’s competitor. Will I buy again from KimStore? Maybe.
Attention online store owners: there’s better and and more effective way of “centralizing” customer inquiries rather than having to deal with separate systems. Contact me if you’re interested.