What consumers want online and offline isn't that different. They want the basics -- good customer service, product information and accurate pricing. Whether they're buying online or just going to your site for information, e-service is service.
You must think like your customers and know their expectations in order to satisfy them. If your site is e-commerce-enabled, it is critical that the same service and sales standards used in face-to-face transactions occur online.
* Transactions should be fast and painless, order fulfillment quick and efficient, and return options simple.
* Assign specific employees the responsibility of supporting Web site requests. Give them the tools and power to meet online customer requests and needs without wasting time getting approval.
* Human interaction should be an option for online customers. Make contact information easy to find. Include names, titles and extensions.
* Identify moments of truth, which occur when customers come in contact with any part of your business and use that contact to judge the quality of the organization. Walk through your Web site with the eyes of a customer. Is it easy to navigate? If you have to work to find information, your customers do, too.
* Work with your partners, in this case your Web designers, to deliver consistent service and quality. A site is not any good to anyone if it can't be updated. Stale content won't bring customers back.
* Provide timely e-mail responses. It doesn't do any good for a customer to leave an e-mail request if you are slow to respond. Win your customers' trust through ease of contact, speed, accuracy, frequently asked questions and personalized e-mail responses. The little things create positive customer experiences.
Good service from your Web site delivers the same positive results as effective face-to-face communication. Your customers will refer you to their peers.
The only difference is it will be by word of mouse instead of word of mouth. Pam Schuck (email@example.com) is president of STRIV=E Training, which specializes in motivating customer service for businesses. She can be reached at (330) 273-8790.