Customer is the King or Queen. That is even more so in this Internet Age where customer experience can get shared easily using social media. The establishment of relationship with the customer starts the moment he includes a few items in his shopping cart of the e-commerce store.
Once the customer selects items and make payment, the order is supposed to have been captured. The order details along with items purchased, quantity, delivery address and any special instructions like gift wrapping or pre-defined time of delivery are to be provided to the fulfillment team. Based on the type of payment - cash on delivery or pre-paid - the process differs for delivery of items purchased.
The moment order is placed, the customer would be keen to receive them as per the delivery dates promised by the vendor. There must be a provision for the customer to track his orders on the e-commerce site where he purchased the items. Sites like Flipkart, owing to their own delivery services, provides that mechanism on their site itself. In cases like Indiatimes Shopping, the delivery status can be verified by using the tracking number associated with the 3rd party courier service (like Bluedart or Dhelivery) mentioned in the Order. For a customer, it does not matter how the delivery happens as long as it happens in time. For e-commerce companies, the operations to support delivery forms the backbone.
Whether the customer experience has been good or bad, it must be captured in a system for critical analysis later. The issues could be about payments, shipping or the item itself. Any immediate problems must be addressed with a sense of urgency. Customers in India (not sure about global space) are sensitive about payment issues, even if the amount involved is small. So issues like double charge for the same Order, refund of money in case of credit-card payments for Order cancellations or issues related to discount must be addressed immediately. Otherwise, the risk of losing that customer and hence his entire network of online buying family and friends looms large at the e-commerce vendor. My bad experience in shopping with Indiatimes was effectively addressed by the company.
Once the customer is happy with his overall experience on an e-commerce store, he is going to come back again. The entire e-commerce business hinges on acquiring large numbers of such customers, who provide repeat business. Hence, it is very important to keep track of such customers and provide benefits to them for their loyalty. I have not seen any e-commerce store in India offering any substantial loyalty services. Or maybe I have not come across one so far.
But, information about new products, special discounts, pre-launch offers and clearance sales needs to be dispatched to all the customers on regular basis to keep the touch-point with them alive.
Needless to say, e-commerce companies must rely on information technology for all the above CRM needs. Customer, order, shipping, payment and feedback information gets stored in appropriate database. Huge amounts of this data can be moved to data warehouses and analyzed for business insights.
E-mail, Chat and Voice Support are the primary channels through which customer communicates with the e-commerce company. One key aspect in providing support to the end-customers is to integrate all these channels at the back-end. Irrespective of the channels I use - this could be many for an issue with the same order - to complain about an Order, it must be resolved.
If you are an end-customer - did you get that wonderful experience from that e-commerce store?
If you are an e-commerce company - could you acquire and retain customer and improve the loyalty base over a period of time through CRM?