A customer orders several items from your Web site, but never receives them. After several failed attempts to contact your company, he finally gets through to you, but you have to tell him his products were never shipped, and, in fact, five of his six orders were lost completely when your online transaction system crashed during the pre-holiday rush. To top it off, no one in your customer service department even notified the customer that there was a problem with his order.
This "nightmare before Christmas" became a reality last year for many e-tailers who didn't implement the proper customer service techniques on their Web sites. In fact, 46 percent of Web consumers left a preferred site due to technical problems and delayed service last holiday season, according to a post-holiday survey conducted by Jupiter Communications Inc., a New York City e-commerce research firm. The study found many of these consumers subsequently picked alternative sites on which to shop.
Smart companies are heeding their customers' concerns and taking action. They're redesigning their Web sites to offer such features as online chats with customer service reps, and Internet telephony technology to answer customer questions, solve problems and, ideally, sell customers on additional products.
Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazine. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org