Online service and support structures are apparently still taking a backseat as companies struggle to come to terms with the Web.
"There are too many sites that don't have any customer support features," bemoaned Yankee Group analyst Lisa Melsted in a recent interview. "Before companies can start to take strategic advantage of the Internet its going to have to become a more customer-oriented domain."
What bothers Melsted and countless of her ilk is that the apparent dearth of adequate services and support is a definite factor contributing to a widespread consumer reluctance to adopt online commerce. "Sites are only now evolving from brochureware into places where customers can get something specific done," noted Melstad. "And, although some companies are starting to think in more customer-oriented terms, improvements need to be made across the board."
According to a recent Yankee study, over 46 percent of e-business managers work for executives who do not consider the Web important to their overall business strategies. The study revealed, moreover that only 45 percent of the surveyed e-business managers could confirm that their companies currently provided any form of online customer service and support whatsoever. "
Companies should at least be providing the basics on their Web sites," cautioned Melsted, "these services are absolutely indispensable."
Obligatory features and functions, as far as Yankee analysts are concerned, constitute elements such as site personalization, ample services and support, customer targeting, online marketing initiatives, intuitive site design, and a sufficient degree of online-offline integration. "Message boards, live chat and e-mail are also imperative," added Melsted.
Yankee analysts suggested that sites should so more to study usage patterns and events with high repeatability so that they are able to keep abreast of site analytics. "It's essential to track and improve the online customer experience," recommended the study, suggesting that sites should be designed to be adaptable to changing customer requirements and undergo extensive usability testing even before they are launched.
"Of course vertical industries such as financial companies, ISPs, portals, and high-end news and entertainment sites are ahead when it comes to covering the basic features," confirmed Melsted. "Yet, even these companies who are - by now - well versed in the ways of the Net need to make substantial improvements in the way they serve their customers online," she concluded.
Reprinted from sa.internet.com.