Customer Service Workshop at NCOF Adresses Online Challenges

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ORLANDO, FL -- Response Design Corp., Ocean City, NJ, sponsored a workshop yesterday at the National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment, here, about growing pains felt by e-businesses concerning customer service.


Kathryn Jackson, an associate with the call center management, measurement, training and technology company, told a crowd of 50 marketers that the Internet would enhance customer service, but not eliminate its responsibilities.


While making the motion of striking a frail object with a mallet, she said a company must allow its customer service to evolve with technology or "the Internet will crush your business."


Jackson's presentation, which included a handout packet, cited a recent Forrester Research study that found online shoppers preferred e-mail to telephone customer service. She said that automated e-mail systems should be implemented because of their popularity and cost-effectivness, but the programs also need close attention and maintenance.


"I know that I've been online and sent an e-mail that was responded to by an automated e-mail that was sent to me over and over again," Jackson said. "You have to try to avoid these automated e-mail loops because they will turn off potential customers."


One problem that relates back to traditional direct marketing, Jackson said, was determining the number of customer service telephone representatives a retail company should add after going online.


"We've always guessed what an ad campaign or a catalog was going to drive in terms of customers," she said. "It's really not much different in (e-commerce). It's a tough thing to predict how many people are going to respond to your site."


On Web design, Jackson said that too many e-tail sites locate their customer service 1-800 numbers inappropiately -- either making the phone numbers hard to find or not available in the area where high-value customers will be shopping. "Those are the customers you want calling in and developing a personal relationship with your company," she said.


The NCFO convention, which kicked off yesterday, runs through Wednesday.

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