Friendly, personalized service isn't a cliché; it's how businesses win customers. Every brick-and-mortar company knows that, from mom-and-pop stores to fine restaurants to large retailers like Wal-Mart. How do you bring that kind of service to an online business? There are a number of ways.
Let's face it, brick-and-mortar stores offer more potential for the personal touch than online firms. Good restaurants feature not only excellent chefs, but courteous and friendly waiters who can answer all of your questions about the food. Stores that sell items such as GPS devices and digital cameras can provide staff willing to explain their technical features and the advantages of one item over the other.
With this personal approach, businesses build relationships with their customers. For example, you probably have a favorite restaurant. Think about the first time you ate there. Was it a personal recommendation that convinced you to walk through the door? Once you did, what stood out about the place? It was probably a combination of things, but I'd bet it boiled down to your interactions with the staff. That's what builds a relationship – and earns a business word-of-mouth recommendations.
Even Wal-Mart uses greeters to ask how you're doing and hustle up a cart for you if you don't have one. Obviously, that's not necessary for many customers – but Wal-Mart must think it makes a difference, or it wouldn't spend the money to employ them. So if such a big company can employ the personal touch, how can you?
As an online business, you won't be meeting your customers face-to-face (at least not at first); to them, your “face” is your website. That means everything about your site – its design, content, and conversion process – must be built with the idea of building relationships with your customers. Your visitors need to see that there are real people behind those pixels. Some of this will happen offsite, when you interact with your customers via phone or email, but at the beginning, your website will need to carry the brunt of the load.
You build a business relationship online in the same way you build one in more traditional settings: by being helpful. As Stoney deGeyter notes, “If visitors come to your site and feel like you care more about selling your product than you do about helping them, they'll leave.” Show your visitors that you want to help them, from the first page they land on (which might not be your home page) through the completion of the process, whether it's confirming delivery of the product or service, sending the final invoice, completing the service, concluding the contract, etc.
Perhaps the most important aspect of being helpful online revolves around providing information. What information you provide, and how you provide it, makes a difference. Customers will want certain things; they also NEED certain things, and they're not always aware of the difference between the two. They may not even be aware of exactly what information they need.
As deGeyter explains it, “People want features, but they need to know how those features benefit them. People want information about the product or service, but they need to know how the product or service will make their lives better.” Show that you understand what people really need, and how they can solve their problems with your product or service, and you're building a relationship. It's not about you; it's about them. Build your business around that idea, and you'll build relationships – and conversions. Good luck!
For more on this topic, visit http://www.searchengineguide.com/stoney-degeyter/the-dirty-little-secret-of-conversions-i.php.
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