Fulfilling Your Dreams
To respond or not respond, that is the
question. Actually, that's not the question, but it makes a pretty dramatic
opening line. The real question I wanted to discuss was centered more
on something web advertising people don't talk about much:
What do you do with people who actually
respond to your sales pitch? Specifically, is it smarter to make them
click through your site to order your product or service? Or should you
feature a toll free phone number for them to call? As usual, there are
plenty of answers, most of which revolve around the issue of what kind
of business you're operating.
For now, let's restrict the discussion
to sites that sell actual product or services.
I don't know about you, but I have a real
hard time with businesses that go to all the trouble of building and publicizing
a web site, only to have me call them on the phone to actually buy stuff.
I mean, you've got me here, standing in your virtual showroom. Why wouldn't
you simply sell me what you've got with a simple mouse click? It seems
awfully silly to make me fumble around with the telephone, especially
when I may only have one phone line to begin with. What am I supposed
to do, sign off and call you back?
Man, that really frosts my cursor. The
only things that freeze it harder are (1) tightwads that want ME to pay
for the call to buy THEIR stuff and (2) web cadets that offer no way to
contact them online to ask them questions before I purchase.
Ah, I feel better.
Okay, I hear a lot of keyboards tapping
out replies already (yes, I do get mail from these columns), saying "Hey,
Rob -- not everyone can afford to build secure servers with sophisticated
order entry and delivery systems." To which I hastily reply, "Who
says that NOT doing it is any cheaper?" The fact is that when you
look at all the hidden and long term costs, NOT installing an automated
system can cost you way more bucks than would chunking down a few bills
Remember that order-taking online is a
24 hour a day, 365 days a year option. A dynamic, secure server never
calls in sick. Never complains about temporary water weight gain. And
doesn't frustrate customers with answers like, "Gee, I don't know,
they didn't tell us that -- can you hold?"
Another consideration is the fact that
no matter how cheap your flat rate is, toll-free numbers cost money. It
doesn't matter why the caller calls, either. Every so often, our phone
rings because the knucklehead who dialed it confused our toll-free "888"
prefix with a toll-free "800" prefix, costing our illustrious
agency 14¢ a minute to explain over his objections that no, we are
not credit dentists. That costs time and money.
Still another reason to think about secure
servers is the fact that the only person who can screw up the order is
your customer himself. A good click-dependent fulfillment structure not
only takes the order, but send the customer a confirmation by e-mail,
restating the order and terms. When was the last time your Customer Service
Rep at Victoria's Secret did that for you?
Yet another benefit of automating your
fulfillment operations is that you can instantly track your activity without
having to rely on an assistant associate supervising manager to create
the report for you. No lost data. No "garbage input". Just pure,
Finally, my favorite reason for automating
fulfillment: it makes you look big. Really big. In a world filled with
ten speed bicycle web sites, automated fulfillment makes you look like
a Cadillac. And not one of those wimpy little Credenzas or whatever they're
calling those fuel-efficient latter day Caddies. I'm talking long, shiny
black Fleetwood with dual exhausts and a TV antenna in the back. Think
about your competition -- do they offer that kind of service? Of course
not. Why? Because they're afraid of the cost, even though almost every
piece you need is off-the-shelf stuff.
Admit it: don't YOU feel better about
a site when you see how slick their order-taking process is? Sure you
do. Because it makes the site look and feel more established and credible.
And believe me, that increases sell-through.