June 13, 2010, 2:50 PM

The customer knows best

CableOrganizer.com listens to customers, and puts their ideas to use, exec Paul Holstein says.

Lead Photo

Paul Holstein, vice president and chief operating officer of CableOrganizer.com, explains how the e-retailer takes advantage of customers' suggestions at IRCE 2010.

Every interaction with a customer should be an opportunity to improve your business, Paul Holstein, vice president and chief operating officer of Cableorganizer.com, said at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in a session entitled “How to borrow customers’ ideas and look like a genius.”

“The customer is telling you exactly how to make your company better,” he said. “All you have to do is listen.”

The problem, however, is that most consumers don’t bother to call customer service. Instead they just abandon the site. In fact, only one customer out of every 100 who experiences a problem will alert a retailer. “Many people experience problems on a site,” he said. “Of those, maybe half stay on the site. Of those, only a few will inform you of the problem.”

That means that retailers need to listen to customers, including when consumers leave comments on blogs and or on consumer reviews sites like Yelp.com.

Retailers should also pay heed to indirect signs that something is askew, such as many failed site searches. “Failed site searches are indirectly telling you that you don’t carry what they’re looking for,” Holstein said.

Those types of indirect signs also include measures like bounce rates, which gauge how often shoppers leave after viewing one page of a site, he added.

The easiest way to understand what needs to be changed, Holstein said, is to directly ask consumers. Cableorganizer.com, for example, has a box, “Can we improve something on this page?” on nearly every page. That box generates 10 to 15 suggestions a day, including valuable questions like “Why don’t you carry a manufacturer’s new line?” or comments such as “You have a typo on your site.”

“Those types of insights can help you adjust your site to make you look like a genius,” he said.

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