Management Of Online Stores: Key Success Factors

Online stores are constantly gaining popularity and thus competition between virtual businesses is growing. At the same time, companies have to find more sophisticated ways to differentiate their offer. As with all business, happy customers should be the ultimate concern, because as the saying goes “only happy customers are loyal customers”. But how can you turn your client’s customers into actual fans?

According to Marta Lopez, Business Development Director, and Gladys Pages, experienced SELLBYTEL Group project manager, for two leading multinational Spanish fashion retailers, a successful online store needs to follow a number of key guidelines.

The following discussion will give you an insight into what defines a successful online business. Based on two different perspectives, it distinguishes between factors that are client-driven and outsourcer-driven, i.e. points that need to be decided on by the client and the ones that can be improved or driven by the outsourcing partner. In this article, we will focus on what the outsourcer can do and finally give a short outline of how the actual client can contribute.

Factors driven by the outsourcing specialist

What is the final objective?

Before deciding on the strategy, we need to identify the key objective of a successful online store:

Customer satisfaction is what it all comes down to. This can be influenced by the outsourcer, yet according to Gladys Pages, clients are more and more motivated to maximize this. Customer satisfaction, the net promoter score as well as the rebuy rate (indicating that if you are happy with a service you buy again) are all driven by an excellent customer service.

How exactly do we achieve the objective?

Last year, for instance, SELLBYTEL added a social media handling service for a fashion client in order to keep up with customers’ growing expectations regarding the variety of contact channels.

We further implemented a second level team for the client to enhance the repurchase rate. Moreover, a higher conversion rate (the percentage of people who actually purchase in relation to those interested) is achieved through a personal chat, outbound calls during low volume periods, as well as – according to Gladys Pages – cross- and up-selling measures.

We also recently prepared a customer satisfaction survey for the Spanish market to grant our partners with even better industry knowledge and insights as well as eventually enrich the customer experience.

The following example gives you an insight into how SELLBYTEL has successfully developed a second level team for an important client.

  • SELLBYTEL case study: Establishment of a second level support for the client

The number of service staff needed to establish a strong customer support team is frequently underestimated. Respectively, the winter sales were very challenging for the client, a leading multinational fashion retailer: While SELLBYTEL recruited first level reinforcements to handle the greater volume, the client’s then in-house second level team required adaptation. Long delays in the resolution of customer incidences, causing dissatisfaction and repetitive contacts from customers about their pending cases were common issues. To solve this, the client transferred the second level functions to the outsourcing specialist SELLBYTEL due to its greater expertise, experience and flexibility in the handling of fluctuating contact volumes. Compared to the first level, the second level team is characterized by the respective customer service representatives’ more profound knowledge and their higher power of decision-making. This was to reduce the time needed for solving customer issues and to increase the rebuy rate.

The winning argument was a rebuy analysis prepared by SELLBYTEL: This included a comparison of how many customers placed a second order after three months in general versus the same number for customers that experienced a delay in the resolution of an incidence. In general, 10% of the client’s customers placed a second order in the three months, but for customers that experienced a delay, the number dropped to almost 0%. So the loss in repeat business alone justified the investment in the second level team.

The outsourcing partner can also provide valuable benchmarking by comparing internal performances with the average of the competition. Customer feedback studies further are an effective way to evaluate performance. Case typologies are recommendable, if, for instance, you want to identify the various types of reasons customers contact you with an enquiry/complaint.

360º customer service through multiple contact channels is key, including phone, E-mail, in some cases live support via video and most notably a chat forum, as well as centralized and easy to access information. This involves the presence of qualified customer service representatives with strong hard as well as soft skills and the ability to turn clients into actual fans.

Below you find an example of how SELLBYTEL successfully developed a chat option for its client.

  • SELLBYTEL case study: Establishment of a customer chat for the client

In early 2013, SELLBYTEL started a pilot with its client to start offering customer support via chat in Spanish. This was a great success and in mid 2013 got expanded into the UK, French, German, Austrian and US markets, in early 2014 the Benelux region and Italy followed. For an online store, adding chat support not only means having more contact options for your customers. End users prefer different channels depending on the reason behind the contact: Potential clients prefer a chat for questions about the product, the buying process or for issues when placing orders.

A chat is a quick and effective way to solve these problems. According to the client, customers that engaged in a chat session have a conversion rate (i.e. unique visitors to the online store versus orders placed) considerably larger to those who did not. So this increase justifies the added investment required for a chat support.

Knowledge management is another important factor the outsourcer can control. SELLBYTEL does this through a specialized self-service module decreasing the workload of the outsourcer. This customer information module is more dynamic than the regular FAQ section, giving exact suggestions on how to solve issues.

Workforce management, i.e. the activities needed to maintain a productive workforce, requires detailed forecasting and the translation of annual sales forecasts into a year round service / staffing plan. This includes the identification of seasonality issues and respective recruitment / training requirements in advance. Besides, a detailed preparation for expected and unexpected absence of service staff is vital to avoid declines in service levels. A multilingual and multi-skilled team of customer service representatives needs to be set up and the workload distributed in order to increase efficiency. Frequent revision and adaptation of the forecast plan is necessary. Hence both the outsourcing specialist and the client need to work together by planning ahead (as far as possible) and most importantly, generating vast flexibility. This, for instance, allows SELLBYTEL to increase the workforce by 20% within 24 hours, 40% within one week and 100% in three weeks.

In the case of SELLBYTEL’s clients, the forecasting process looks as follows:

  • Determination of sales figures
  • Proposal of forecasts
  • Outbound calls if forecast is above actual volumes
  • Restricted vacations during peak months
  • Recent introduction of weekly phone conferences with the e-business department to fine-tune forecasting

Please contact Marta Lopez (marta.lopez@sellbytel.es) or Gladys Pages (gladys.pages@sellbytel.es) directly for further information on SELLBYTEL’s approach to workforce management.

While the previous discussion described the key factors implemented by the outsourcer, the following will now outline what the client himself can do to optimize his own online business.

Factors driven by the client:

Availability of support is essential. This includes chat, email and phone support on a native or at least very fluent language level in all customer languages. According to Marta Lopez, this can be driven by the client but is also a great opportunity for the outsourcer to make valuable propositions. With the respective client, it has been a joint effort.

Costumers expect fast and accessible responses before, during and after purchases, plus different channels are preferred by different types of contacts. So you have to serve your customers in their native language, offer free methods of contact and be ready to offer a consistent experience no matter what channel of communication. Gladys Pages emphasizes that nowadays you have to interact with your customers via social networks and offer them a fast resolution of complaints combined with extended service hours.

It is further important to give a high amount of power to the respective customer service representatives in order for them to be able solve incidences and serve the customer’s needs by, for instance, offering promotional codes to increase retention.

Besides that, an advanced CRM-Tool for gathering information and handling clients and their purchase history is vital to achieve a targeted marketing strategy.

When it comes to logistics, the client needs to decide on its shipping policy, such as free shipping & returns, parcel tracking and express delivery options.

The client further has to develop a user-friendly web strategy: The website should be easy to use, have a minimalistic design and make use of search engine optimization.

Another critical aspect: payment options. These need to include credit cards, secure digital payment systems, such as PayPal, and automatic bank transfer.

Multichannel presence: The client also needs to follow a consistent concept for both physical and online stores. This includes integrated customer information, equal prices, promotions and loyalty benefits. It may lead to confusion and internal competition if marketing strategies are not aligned among all sales channels,

Last but not least, the customer service representatives themselves should be fans of the brand, so-called brand ambassadors, to be able to sell it to customers with pure conviction and enthusiasm. This is achieved by involving the staff in processes, valuing their opinion, providing them with detailed information and offering discounts on products/services.

Finally, the guidelines introduced above provide excellent preconditions for generating happy and thus loyal customers. The given case examples of the SELLBYTEL Group reinforce this view by illustrating how a strong basis for customer loyalty can be created in practice. We will be pleased to also help you optimize your online business in the future.

Please get back to Marta Lopez or Gladys Pages with questions or comments via marta.lopez@sellbytel.es and gladys.pages@sellbytel.es

 

Below you find short profiles of Marta Lopez and Gladys Pages:

Marta Lopez:

Marta Lopez has a responsible role within the SELLBYTEL Group in Spain: Business Development Director. The 39 year old has been convinced that her success is based on the fact that she always puts herself in her customer’s shoes and pushes the company towards innovation. She started her career as a Supervisor in 2000, then moved on to Project Manager and gradually joined the Commercial Department. As a Business Development Director she intends to get new business for the company and to pursue innovation through strategic alliances and research of technological trends. She also constantly has to watch the needs of clients to design the most suitable solutions and services.

Gladys Pages:

Gladys started her career with the SELLBYTEL Group as a Project Manager 13 years ago. Since then, she has managed several important accounts and completed a SELLBYTEL-organized postgraduate program in Project Management. She also regularly collaborates with the Quality Department for supervisor trainings. Prior to SELLBYTEL, Gladys collected valuable experiences in a range of business fields, working among others for a multinational financial services corporation. To her, the most fascinating part of the online business is that it is a very dynamic, fast-moving and flexible industry that is constantly growing.

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