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Thread: Email Evolution? Retailer Kudos & Crashes
      
   

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Email Evolution? Retailer Kudos & Crashes

    Another gleaning from a current eNewsletter from CRM Magazine, critiquing the email practicces and accomplishments of leading retailers.
    This also includes a suggestion to the natural evolution to adding "Chat" (in different formats) to your website, something easily done via Fantastico! for every VodaHost Account.....(all emphasis mine)


    Retailers Get Higher Marks in Answering Emails
    Firms have begun to respond to customer demand for quicker replies, strengthening brands and relationships in the process.
    by Phillip Britt
    Friday, August 18, 2006

    Retailers have improved their responses to customers' email requests and are realizing better than companies in other industries that those customer emails provide excellent customer relationship building opportunities, according to The Customer Respect Group's "Third Quarter 2006 Online Customer Respect Study of Retailers."

    The Customer Respect Group (CRG) is an international research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat their online customers. Beyond email, the study looks at firms' Web site usability and how well firms could be trusted with personal data. The report analyzes 51 major retail companies in the now substantial online retail industry, which last year generated $143.2 billion. The industry as a whole scored 6.2 on the 10 point CRI index, equal to the telecommunications industry, which ranked at the top of the industry table.

    "They've jumped on the fact that when customers are asking [email] questions, it's an excellent time to elicit additional customer information," says TerryGolesworthy, president of CRG. "They've begun a real thrust looking at customers on a one to one basis and marketing to them on an ongoing basis. They don't see email as [a nuisance]. They realize that when customers ask more questions [the companies] can gather more information as a result. They've made that circle very nicely, unlike a lot of other industries."

    Saks is one company that has made marked improvement in its email responses, answering most questions within a couple of hours, according to Golesworthy. While an answer within 24 hours has long been the acceptable email response time, customers are starting to expect answers in a much shorter time frame, he says. "The bar has been raised on timeliness."

    While retailers as a whole scored very well in terms of communications, there were some notable exceptions; Golesworthy cites Target, Office Depot, Lowe's, and CompUSA as being far behind their peers. The CompUSA failure to adequately handle emails is particularly notable, Golesworthy adds, because its customers are technologically savvier, and therefore more likely to use email than customers of the average retailer.

    "The way a company handles customers' emails has a tremendous impact. It goes a long way in determining how customers see the company's brand," Golesworthy says. He adds that those who are already doing an adequate or excellent job should look at adding or improving Web chat in order to continue to improve.

    "Web chat takes advantage of the time a customer takes to respond," Golesworthy explains. "While [an agent] can handle only one call at a time, he can handle two or three Web chats at once. Any more than that results in long gaps in replies."
    . VodaWebs....Luxury Group
    * Success Is Potential Realized *

  2. #2
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    Wink Re: Email Evolution? Retailer Kudos & Crashes

    This is interesting, I see this on other websites, where at in fantastisco? Seems a bit over-whelming to me. People have been saying I should have something like this on my website, they also have been asking to book costumes on-line. I never thought of all this. So much to learn.

  3. #3
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    Lightbulb Re: Email Evolution? Retailer Kudos & Crashes

    CatLady(?),

    The jist of the whole article is retailers who designed a cohesive email system (newsletters, product info signups, support - including CRM, and even those who depend on email-Commerce rather than a "cart") and were committed to responding promptly and personally fared better than their competition.

    Marketing strategy aside, Newsletters and Contests are a great way to compile a base of addresses to blast regularly to, as long as you have a distinct and valid offer to present, otherwise it's junk email in the customer's eyes. To effect a large email campaign effectively and super-affordably, you should enlist the services and tools available from aweber.com, the same provider for not only VH and myself, but many other companies as an alternative to Constant Contact (very expensive). The reason I suggest this, is because your outgoing email distribution via your VH account is 200/hr, and even coming close to that threshold may endanger your account status (you don't want to risk a VH server being shut down). *The use of email "Forms" with multiple fields are a great method of collecting more information beyond the original intent, and is incredibly useful when designing your programs and business developments. Since they can be changed/updated frequently, your information will remain pertinent and refreshed.

    When it comes to CRM (Customer Relations Management), we are fortunate to have a few tools in Fantastico! to use to our advantage, with or without a true "cart" function.... I have been looking into both the Live Support options (Crafty Syntax, OS Center Live, Help Center, Perl Desk, and Support Logic HelpDesk) and the "static" options such as a chat utility, which is mentioned in the article. Offering a "Live" support option is extremely effective, but requires a large commitment to staff and maintain it properly- and it should never be offered if hardly available. This can be quite an undertaking, as many of us have already run into a crunch managing our Blogs, Forums, and Guestbooks.

    There is also a means to "tweak a technology" beyond what it was intended also, offering semi-live contact, and a place to present "resources" in an organized, "User-Friendly" format: for instance, I have used a phpBB Forum (with customized look and modifications - free) to sort out all my training videos, downloadable sales forms, accounting and sales interfacing software, image bank, etc. all as posts/threads in the Forum, which allows 24/7 access to all my sales associates wherever they may be, and with whatever system they might have. It's a lot cheaper, faster to update, and more accurate to be on the same page for me to offer this, and since it resides in a password-protected area of the corporate website, I feel it is secure from public eyes. But, a Forum is NOT something I would try to supplant as a CRM utility, at least in my industry.

    Personally, I believe that I will opt to implement a CRM offering from Fantastico! for my true cart websites....even if it is "open for business" during limited hours, I feel if customers see this icon they will recognize a greater degree of commitment to service, and be more comfortable/confident navigating through the site. As long as Contact is easy, and replies are indeed prompt, the follow-through is what will continue to make the distinction between my sites and others that lack the "accountability" I have designed into my business model.

    Obviously, the articulated use of a comprehensive email program and a means to engage with clients other than transactionally will lead to a definitively enhanced customer experience, and the dynamics of eCommerce suggests that today's visitors, if assured, will likely become tomorrow's customers.

    VodaHost as our chosen "Partner" in our continued success makes much of this possible with the tools and technologies they include Free with every account!
    . VodaWebs....Luxury Group
    * Success Is Potential Realized *

  4. #4
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    Wink Re: Email Evolution? Retailer Kudos & Crashes

    CatLady??? It works....Vasili, you have said so much here, after thoroughly reading and researching this subject, I have decided to wait until I am more knowledgeable of the process. I too agree, that there is no sense to do half a job or a poor job. Thank-you for the wealth of information.

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