June 6, 2007, 12:00 AM

Give the lady what she wants

A consultant outlines key elements of a thorough and successful Internet retailer customer service plan, including an easy-to-find phone number and list of customer service hours and inventory status notification on product pages or in shopping carts.

Lauren Freedman once worked for Marshall Fields, which, she recalls, had an old saying it made sure all employees knew well: “Give the lady what she wants.” This is precisely the advice she offers e-retailers looking for new or unrealized opportunities in e-commerce.

Internet retailers must carefully consider and outline customer service plans that help ensure their customers are happy and content, Freedman said at the Internet Retailer 2007 Conference and Exhibition June 5 in an educational session titled “Assessing the Real E-commerce Opportunity.”

Freedman, president of consulting and research firm the e-tailing group, said the following are key elements of a thorough and successful web retailer customer service plan:

  • A web site with a comprehensive customer service destination
  • An easy-to-find phone number and list of customer service hours
  • Inventory status notification on product pages and/or in shopping carts
  • Guest membership capability
  • An efficient checkout process
  • A privacy policy and guarantee
  • Timely fulfillment, within three to five business days
  • Efficient and appropriate answers to all service queries, ideally within no more than 48 hours
  • A clear and concise returns policy
With regard to shoppers making their way through an Internet retailer’s online customer service functions and information, Freedman said merchants should ensure customer-centric navigation via “the mother plan.” She explained: “If my mother can do it, then anyone can.”

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