Secret Weapon To Happier Customers

Face it: There is no such thing as an “Internet-only” customer. No matter how great your Website is, customers will reach you by phone, fax, email – and, if you have a physical presence, in person. It’s increasingly (and fortunately) rare to find a Website that does not let customers phone and email for questions, issues, and support. (Even Amazon.com answers its phone for customer service.)

True, these are the same customers who also use the Web to research, order, check on orders, and get support. But in displaying all that cross-channel behavior, customers are giving you important clues about how they want you to reach out to them.

So how do you map out a sharp advertising and marketing strategy for luring new customers? Mix and match your outreach media. Remember, you’re not going after the Web customer, you’re recruiting a multichannel customer. As Judy Neuman, divisional vice president for Eddie Bauer’s I-Media Group explains: “I want my customer to shop in the store in the mall on Saturday, receive a catalog on Thursday, and shop on the Web Friday night, after the kids are in bed.”

KEEP CURRENT CUSTOMERS HAPPY

Don’t begin by looking to the Web as a way to bring in new customers. Focus first on making your current customers happy. Make sure your site has the functionality they demand – make it easy to search, easy to order, and easy to check on the status of orders. Once you do a good job serving your regular customers well electronically, you’ll gain their loyalty.

That will translate into lower defection rates (50 percent lower in Wells Fargo’s case, since customers who move won’t need to change banks), lower customer service costs (typically 50 percent lower for self-service Web customers), and additional sales and profits (self-service types will typically cross-sell and upsell themselves into 30 percent higher-profit purchases, even when no one is pressuring them to do so). A few rules for the road:

  • Hurl the URL

Put it everywhere: on shopping bags, on every ad you run, on the cash register receipt, on every print catalog or direct mail piece you send out, on your phone systems. Your goal is to get your existing customers to come to the site and use it instead of, and in addition to, your other channels.

Companies that have been following this strategy-American Airlines, Charles Schwab, Wells Fargo, Eddie Bauer, Lands’ End, L.L. Bean-all report good success in wooing a percentage of their existing customers to their Websites. More than 85 percent of Schwab’s customers now do their business online. Wells Fargo now has close to 8 million customers banking online.

More than 35 percent of American Airlines’ most profitable customers – its Executive Platinum members – use AA.com regularly. Do they still pick up the phone, occasionally? Sure. Do Eddie Bauer customers still shop in the stores? Yes. But they also shop on the Web. Eddie Bauer will, on occasion, devote an entire page in its print catalog to extolling the virtues of its Website. It also prints its URL on every other page of the catalog.