March 12, 2009, 12:00 AM

ApplianceZone.com removes phone number from its site, relies on live chat

ApplianceZone.com cut costs to help it live up to its promise to match the lowest price online for appliance parts and accessories. It also replies to e-mail inquiries from the site within 10 minutes during business hours.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

Appliance Zone LLC is all about offering low prices on appliance parts and accessories. That’s why it removed the toll-free phone number from its web site last month and relies on live chat and e-mail to handle customer inquiries, says Jim Allen, CEO.

The fast-growing online retailer was adding employees to keep up with phone calls, and finding the average call tied up an agent for four to six minutes, Allen says. The fastest agents can handle 12 to 15 text chats at a time, he says. “Reps cover a lot more ground with live chat,” he says.

“It was kind of a risky move taking down the phone numbers,” Allen observed early this month, “but we did have a record week last week, which was our third week of doing this. We have not had too much negative feedback. We still have people who want to talk to a person on the other end. We assure them it’s a real person talking to them on the other end through chat.”

Appliance Zone uses the BoldChat live chat system from Bravestorm LLC, and also the vendor’s BoldMail e-mail management system. The retailer has created a simple form on its web site so that customers who know the model and serial number of the part they need can e-mail an inquiry and get a fast reply.

“Within the hours of 8 a.m. and midnight a rep will get back to them within 10 minutes, or they can use the chat feature, which we push as the No. 1 way of communicating,” Allen says. The retailer is receiving between 4,000 and 5,000 e-mails a day, he says.

Allen believes customers recognize that eliminating live phone agents is a money-saving move that helps ApplianceZone.com back up its guarantee to offer the lowest price on the web for the parts it stocks. It’s so confident of its prices that it features a Price Checker on its site that allows customers to instantly compare ApplianceZone.com’s price with that of several online competitors.

The e-retailer, which now has 19 employees, keeps costs low by fulfilling all domestic orders through drop-ship relationships with 70 suppliers, which means it doesn’t have to buy and warehouse inventory. Allen believes the low-cost strategy suits the times, as he says more cash-strapped consumers appear to be ordering parts and repairing appliances themselves rather than calling a repairman.

Allen says the e-retailer’s sales have doubled in the last four months since it launched ApplianceZone.com, an enhanced version of the company’s original site, AppliancePartsSpecialist.com. He says the company is selling $750,000 a month online and expects that monthly total to hit $1 million by midyear.

Comments | 7 Responses

  • I tried to contact ApplianceZone.com using their new-fangled chat function, but it was relatively useless. They could not do anything for me other than refer me to the web site, which I had already made myself familiar with. Not having a phone number to call was quite unsettling. All I needed to do was change a shipping option because I had made a mistake in my order form, but there was nothing that anyone could do for me. The buyer is not always right, not at ApplianceZone.com

  • Ordered a part after a chat wit a costumer service. No Help,Part was wrong. I had no confidence in there system anymore and ordered directly from BOSH. Even when they made the mistake buy recommending the wrong part and shipping it , they will not take the responsibility and refund my money. Instead they want me to sell it on ebay and I do not even know what that part is for. They are a rip off. They make customers unwillingly there sales person with no knowledge. That how they make there money, selling wrong parts to costumers and not taken responsibility for it and not reimborse the money for wrong parts.

    • Yes!! This is what I am experiencing right now. Ordered the wrong part. I finally got better advice from a different sight. Customer service says 'Idon't know' :-) Is there anything else I can help you with? Or, 'I'll get back' but not. At this point, I'd just like return authorization.

  • This was the worst case of customer service I have ever experienced. I receive the wrong part after purchasing it from their website. My invoice and email clearly said that I ordered the right piece. And they sent me the wrong item. I have talk to several chat personel who told me there was nothing anyone could do. But that I could leave a msg for them to contact to me. And Im still waiting. I would not recomend their service to anyone after being treated so unfairly.. If the responsibility of ordering the right part were my fault. I would be understanding.. But it's not..

  • my husband ordered a part for our washing machine the part does not work the machine is still not working. your company will not let him return the part so he just wasted 100. this is horrible customer service......

  • This business is all about making money for the owner. There is no such thing as customer service or proper business practice. It cost me $116.08 because the part cannot be returned. I did not know of this policy when I placed the order. By the way, I looked up their street address and it was a little building by the side of a rural road across a small lake or pond. Stay away from Appliance Zone.

  • I should have known that a company that does not post a phone number for customer service that in its self should have been a RED FLAG. My advice is to STAY AWAY from this merchant.... To purchase an item is not a problem, they know how to take your money. The problem is when you have to return an item!!! Double charges on shipping, restocking charges etc. If they make a mistake on a shipment to you you will pay more in shipping charges and restocking then the item is worth to return it I gave up trying to resolve my problem with them and took it as a loss and a lesson learned... I want to share this with the buying public and inform them DO NOT DO BUSSINESS WITH APPLIANCE ZONE. They do not have their customers in their best of interest...... There are many on line companys to deal with that are consumer friendly... APPLIANCE ZONE IS NOT ONE OF THEM !!!!!!! BUYER BEWARE

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