In our personal lives each of us has been both positively and negatively affected by customer service or the lack thereof. The way we evaluate any place we do business has everything to do with the customer service we receive during our experience.
The way you evaluate your experience with suppliers of products and services in our industry is no different. The supplier that is not willing to satisfy the essential needs of its customer is a supplier that does not intend to run the long haul. Likewise, a job shop that is not willing to offer effective customer service to its manufacturing customers is running a high risk of having its business shifted to another job shop that does.
Here are some simple techniques for your website that will allow you to provide the very basics of customer service that your customers expect.
Customer service forms
Try building customer service forms to give your customers direct interaction with you. Specific customer service forms will aid your customers in communicating their needs, wants or concerns with you in a timely manner. The more specific you can build the forms the better. Jim Sterne, author of the book Customer Service on the Internet; Building Relationships, Increasing Loyalty, and Staying Competitive, says that customers are not always willing to give you their full comments on the phone because they do not want to offend you. However, he states that they are willing to "bleed their spleen on the screen" and give you all of their feelings through e-mail and online forms.
Customer service forms are an excellent tool, but stay on top of your e-mail and respond to your customer's comments and suggestions quickly.
Detailed contact information
Do not take for granted that your customers can easily remember contact names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers or fax numbers. Provide this information on your website with great detail and your customers will use it. A good example of this can be found at Imagineering Enterprises, Inc.'s website (www.imagineering-inc.com). The e-mail directory is a great feature that gives not only contact names with direct e-mail addresses but also departments in case customers do not remember the name of their contact.
Password protected customer service
A Brite Company (www.abrite.com) is certainly a pioneer of customer service on the Internet for our industry. Its site features a password-protected area for its customers that include over 200 technical data sheets, 225 MSDS sheets and special contact numbers. Its password-protected system allows it to provide special information on its site for customers' eyes only. You can develop this type of customer service feature on your site with very little effort over a short period of time.
The next level of customer service
The next level of customer service on the Internet is rapidly approaching in our industry. Although some are choosing not to look at it closely, others are embracing the technology. This form of customer service is online tracking, where a job shop can allow its manufacturing customer to access or track its order (job) status via the Internet.
Customers will always continue to raise their level of expectations of their vendors. While the normal reaction from a job shop might be to steer away from any technology that would further open the viewing window for a client to peer directly into its operations, there is increasing demand from the manufacturers that want to stay in control of their products.
The bottom line of the customer experience is that it has to be positive and must meet or exceed everyone's expectations. The Internet will assist you in focusing on the needs of your customers, insuring that they will continue to do business with you.
Travis's Monthly Site Review:
United Parcel Service *****
(Sites are rated with up to 5 stars, with 5 being the highest score.)
Finishers and suppliers rely daily on the shipping services of companies like UPS and FedEx. Lab analysis, replacement parts and even hazardous materials are trusted in their hands. Because of the importance of these shipments, customer service demands on UPS (www.ups.com) are extremely high.
When you examine this site, you will see that UPS is providing top-notch customer service. For example, click on the barcode graphic at the top of its website that says TRACK. This takes you to a page that enables you to track up to 25 orders that you have either sent or are receiving through UPS. After you enter the tracking number for a package you are expecting, you will get a TRACKING SUMMARY. This summary includes the status (In Transit, Delivered), the scheduled delivery date and the type of service your package has (2nd-Day Air, Ground, etc.). At this point, there is a DETAIL button that you can select. After choosing this feature, you are directed to another page titled TRACKING DETAIL. This page includes the information from the TRACKING SUMMARY with the addition of PACKAGE PROGRESS. This feature shows each stop the package makes while in route to its final destination. You can check this daily to see where your shipment is during its progress.
The UPS site exemplifies customer service on the net and I would encourage you to check it out.
Industry Web Site News
Imagineering Enterprises, Inc. has completed its new website development and would like to invite you to visit at http://www.imagineering-inc.com.
The Dow Chemical Co. has announced a new website that provides technical and application information on the uses of magnesium hydroxide for neutralizing acidic industrial and municipal waste streams. You can access this site at www.magnesiumhydroxide.com.