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How To—Customer satisfaction is key to increasing market share

To be successful in today’s competitive market, a company must focus on developing innovative business strategies for increasing market share, customer loyalty and repeat business.

Customers have more choices than ever before and are bombarded with more advertising, product information and E-commerce opportunities. The real competitive challenge for any company, either traditional “brick and mortar” or Web-based, is to gain a better understanding of what customers really want and what influences their buying decisions.

Although there are more choices available today, customers continue to seek out the combination of quality products and services at competitive prices. However, they are also looking for a greater level of customer satisfaction throughout the whole shopping experience.

This is of particular interest for most online shoppers. Because of the explosive growth of E-commerce, customers are using the Internet as a method of choice for gathering information to support their purchase decisions as well as a vehicle for making purchase transactions.

If their experience with a particular electronic site does not provide them with an overall level of satisfaction from beginning to end of the purchasing process, this same customer may quickly choose to look elsewhere.

Dissatisfied customers may not even stay at your site long enough to find out what your company has to offer. They can abort the purchasing transaction in mid-stream and give up their “electronic shopping cart,” or if they complete the purchase transaction they may exercise their option of returning your product and choose never to shop at your location again.

– Customer Loyalty Tied To Good Service

Of course, they can also tell friends and neighbors about their less than satisfactory shopping experience. Customer loyalty, repeat business and increased market share are closely tied to the level of customer satisfaction experienced within the total purchasing process. This can become one of the key market differentiation strategies for any successful business.

It has been estimated that approximately 50 percent of all online shoppers may have at least one unfavorable customer service encounter that can cause them to turn their back on a particular electronic site.

The following list identifies some of the marketing practices that can be used to establish a satisfying shopping experience for your E-commerce customers.

—Apply the right “front end” E-commerce technology to make your Web site “shopper friendly” and easy to find. This should apply to all aspects of the purchasing process from the initial stages of browsing and fact-finding, to order placing, merchandise delivery and product returns.

Many customers are still in the courting stage with this new electronic shopping mall adventure and it is their first impression of your site that may entice them to stay long enough to make their final selection.

—Develop a stable “back end” marketing infrastructure to support the full spectrum of E-commerce process steps required to get product to market in a timely and cost-effective manner. This includes the use of effective order processing and distribution channels that have the capability of handling large volumes and peak season ordering requirements.

—Develop a close relationship with your suppliers and keep an “electric eye” on their inventory levels so that your customers’ purchasing needs will not be side-stepped by larger competitive orders. This is one of the critical challenges of choosing good vendors.

– Obtain Feedback On Customer Satisfaction

—Establish a proactive customer satisfaction feedback system which can track the status of customer orders and returns and notify customers as required. This may include partnering with distribution centers that use a variety of sophisticated order tracking methods such as bar coding, software integration, logistics control and warehouse management tools.

—Apply customer profile and demographic analysis tools to help you better understand the requirements and shopping behavior of your existing or potential customers. You can use this information to evaluate the effectiveness of your product and service offerings and turn Web surfers into Web buyers.

If you do not have this capability in-house, seek out the help of a good service provider to support your E-commerce business needs.

—Develop a good working environment within your company that focuses on keeping employees. Employee turnover can easily affect the level of your order processing and your ability to handle peak season requirements. Retain and nurture productive employees to ensure that your corporate knowledge and expertise stay working for you rather than for your competition.

E-commerce has the power to provide a winning experience for both the customer and the retailer.

The customer can have a diverse shopping adventure at no additional cost, make more selective buying decisions from a broader range of products and services, become more knowledgeable and stay in control of his or her own requirements.

The retailer can form effective work alliances with knowledgeable E-commerce support teams such as well-established warehousing and distribution channels, order processors, research and advertising specialists and thus gain more effective market exposure and increase market share possibilities.

– Learn From Other Shopping Experiences

What is important for every participant in this new electronic market is to learn from past experience and to establish a level of customer satisfaction that is important for you. Last year’s holiday shopping season caught many customers and retailers unprepared and frustrated with a less-than-satisfactory shopping experience.

An important first step is to combine an effective business plan with the realization that customer satisfaction must take place across the complete purchasing cycle from the early fact-finding stage, to product and service delivery and after sales servicing.

Decide to elevate total customer satisfaction as an important value in your everyday life, learn from it and make it work for you in all your business encounters.

Fox is president of Objectives International, Inc., a San Diego-based woman-owned consulting company.


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