May I help you today?
How was your dinner?
Would you like to try that on?
Are you looking for something in particular?
Anyone who has worked in the service or retail industry knows some combination of the above phrases well. They are the staple of initiating contact with a customer or potential customer. For centuries brick and mortar stores have fashioned job descriptions with words titles such as clerk, sales associate, waiter, customer service person, concierge, and countless other names. With each name came the clear and succinct goal: take care of the customer while they are walking around my shop.
The presence of store representatives have transcended common and have reached the status of expected. Can you imagine walking in to any store, no matter how large or small, and being ignored completely? Think about your own reaction the last time that occurred (if ever).
So now let’s lay out some facts about the brick and mortar doppelganger: the Internet and online shopping:
By 2014, Forrester predicts that over half of all retail sales will be online!
Today, only about 5% of all online properties offer any kind of real-time personal assistance.
These numbers should be approached as both alarming, as well as an opportunity.
In the last decade as the world shifted and new paradigms were introduced, it seems that the masses have forgotten one of the basic tenants of running a business: companies typically compete on one of three primary areas of focus:
However, once you decide your focus, you must continue to be minimally competent in the other two areas as well.
The rush for organizations to transform and develop an online presence has, for the most part, reduced company’s to focusing on the “natural” benefits that the Internet can create: reducing overhead, thereby reducing costs, and thereby allowing them to reduce prices. Any organizations that do not have a substantial offline “brick and mortar” brand are almost always forced to focus on pricing as ways to lure customers to their web site.
Product differentiation on the Internet can be a very difficult task. Without the inherent ability for a customer to see something beyond a photograph, what is a retail brand to do when it comes time to prove their product is of better quality than the next guys? New age tools such as social media are allowing organizations to leverage the power of the masses and build strong brand recognition around their products, but this requires a significant investment and time in order to succeed (not unlike the real-world!)
So what’s left? What do online stores do if they want to differentiate themselves as a service organization? Looking at the numbers, not many of them have even tried. If you currently run a website, you should be very attuned to how your competition is attempting to service their online constituency. For the most part, you will find that there is very little, if any, attention paid to this area.
It’s like having a brick-and-mortar store without anyone in the show room.
In most cases, the best you are going to get out of a web site is the ability to e-mail or phone in to their customer service department. While both of these activities provide some semblance of convenience, they also both have major drawbacks. Requiring a customer to send e-mail and wait for a response can be disastrous if the question arises at the point of sale. With your competitor just a click away, that’s typically your customers immediate next move. In fact, given that over 80% of all e-mails go ignored, you can pretty much consider the sale lost. As far as phone is concerned, assuming that the customer finds the number, and decides to throw away the convenience of the “online” transaction and replace it with a phone conversation, the best thing this method can offer is a reactive service that may work if the customer is happy with the transition from online to offline.
The odd thing is, the answer to these problems have been around for over a decade! Click-to-chat services have been allowing you and your competitors to easily have the ability to add that human-touch to web sites. By adding a simple “Live help” button to each of your web pages, customers know that they can quickly and painlessly get an answer to their problem or question. By adding live help to your website, you are providing your site with the equivalent of that in-store associate. You are telling your customer, you care about their needs and you are Johnny-on-the-spot with a desire to help them.
Live help services also allow you to add that proactive touch that your competitors don’t. With proactive invitations, you can greet and engage your customers in the same tried-and-true manner that brick and mortar companies have enjoyed for hundreds of years.
With so many people shopping online, and with so few organization’s actually treating live help as important as having an in-store sales clerk, your organization has a huge opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Live help and click-to-chat services are not new. They have been around for over ten years. They are proven mechanisms that help companies improve customer service, reduce costs, and increase their online conversions. The numbers don’t lie.
Take advantage of it now before it becomes the “norm”, and show your customers how much more you care than your competitors.