January 25, 2006, 12:00 AM

AJ Madison focusing resources on customer service

The online appliance retailer is doubling the size of its customer service department and making site upgrades, such as a streamlined shopping cart, to spur sales, says president Michael Gross.

AJ Madison Inc. reports that its 2005 web sales increased by 35% over the prior year. Based on an Internet Retailer sales estimate of $41.9 million in 2004, AJ Madison’s 2005 sales reached $56.6 million. Moving forward, the company, No. 131 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites, is focusing its attention and resources on enhancing overall customer service.

The Internet has become such a competitive environment that retailers must do business in a way that clearly sets them apart from the crowd; as a result, AJ Madison has begun an intensive effort to advance customer service, says Hyatt Hodges, vice president of marketing at the online kitchen appliances seller. “To begin with, we’re doubling our customer service department staff,” she says.

Additionally, the company is investing in technology, being developed in-house, to change the face of the customer experience on its site.

The idea is to make communication with customers as easy and thorough as possible, not just after the sale but before as well, says Michael Gross, president.

“Usually accounts only kick in after an order is placed. We’re building out the MyAccount area so communication with customers begins during their planning stages,” Gross says. “We’re redesigning the customer account area so customers can not only check invoices but also put together their own designs for their kitchens while communicating online with sales staff.”

The company, which markets its site through search engine keyword purchases, shopping portal placements, affiliate programs and some print advertising, also redesigned its shopping cart, incorporating financing tools. “It all boils down to trust,” Gross adds. “It’s very important to customers to shop at an e-retailer with proven results of a successful track record. That’s why customer service is the focus of our long-term plan.”

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