Ring My Bell

When your e-customers ask for help, is anyone there to answer?
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the December 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Just as in the world of brick-and-mortar, customer service can make or break your e-business. Yet dealing with customers online presents a daunting set of challenges. A recent survey conducted by Jupiter Research revealed 72 percent of online buyers cite customer service as a critical factor in their online shopping satisfaction, but only 41 percent are satisfied with the service they've received.

A variety of customer service solutions are hitting the Web to mend this weak link in the e-commerce chain. Busy netpreneurs are finding two types of third-party services useful: sans humans or humans included. Either way, the aim is to reduce expensive support phone calls and piles of unanswered e-mail.

Virtual customer support presents a low-cost, low-personnel option, but functionality is limited. Approaches range from the use of Interactive Voice Response systems to cartoon assistants. Somewhere in the middle are services like Ask Jeeves' natural language technology-essentially the same as the Ask Jeeves search engine, but applied to customer service on participating sites.

The top choice for online human-assisted customer service is chat. Chat offers the advantage of real-time interaction accessible directly from businesses' Web sites. Companies like LivePerson offer this high-tech Internet version of a traditional call center. Although the costs have to be closely examined, one-on-one service is the ideal for customer support.

A June 2000 study by Datamonitor reported a loss of $6.1 billion in online sales due to poor customer service in 1999. That figure indicates that top-level service isn't a luxury; it's a necessity that pays off in added sales and repeat customers.

Contact Source

More from Entrepreneur
Our Franchise Advisors will guide you through the entire franchising process, for FREE!
  1. Book a one-on-one session with a Franchise Advisor
  2. Take a survey about your needs & goals
  3. Find your ideal franchise
  4. Learn about that franchise
  5. Meet the franchisor
  6. Receive the best business resources
Make sure you’re covered if an employee gets injured at work by
  • Providing us with basic information about your business
  • Verifying details about your business with one of our specialists
  • Speaking with an agent who is specifically suited to insure your business
Whether you want to learn something new, be more productive, or make more money, the Entrepreneur Store has something for everyone:
  • Software
  • Gadgets
  • Online Courses
  • Travel Essentials
  • Housewares
  • Fitness & Health Devices
  • And More

Latest on Entrepreneur