E-tailers risk service test

AUSTRALIAN electronic retailers who fail to deliver superior customer service risk losing customers for good, says store CEO David Gold.

Mr Gold said exceptional customer service was a key factor that would set e-commerce sites apart.

A Forrester Research survey of 17,000 online consumers showed 90 per cent of satisfied customers were likely to visit again and 87 per cent would tell their friends and family about the site.

E-tailing is growing in popularity in Australia. The www.consult Online Xmas Shopping Report claims Australian Internet users spent $149 million buying Christmas gifts online and 61 per cent of those purchases took place through Australian websites.

Mr Gold said post-Christmas surveys showed customer service was the most critical part of the online shopping experience.

“E-tailers still have a number of lessons to learn about implementing ways to best serve customers,” he said.

“For instance, e-tail outlets don’t have a physical presence for returning goods.

“Customers must return products by post and are often left wondering when they will get their product replaced.

“The online shopping experience must offer customers a high level of convenience in order to be compelling to customers.”

Australian Customer Service Association president Jillian Mercer said, for e-tailing to be successful, there had to be a relationship with the customer.

“The e-tailer has to know what the customer wants,” she said.

Ms Mercer said e-tailers could not avoid distancing themselves from their customers.

“One way a computer distances customers is by getting personal details, such as the spelling of names, wrong then sending communications to them using the erroneous information,” she said.

Ms Mercer said she thought there would be a proportion of people for whom e-tailing would provide everything they needed.

“However, in Australia there has been a resurgence in strip shopping where there is closer contact between customer and retailer,” she said.

“I think the various needs of different types of customers are starting to assert themselves.

“Furthermore, there will always be people who work all day on computers so the last thing they probably want to do is shop online.

“I know that applies to me. After a day sitting behind a computer screen I like to get out and actually see real people,” she said.

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