Five "Must Have" Website Communications Tools for Customer Loyalty

The Idea Cafe blog will be publishing articles that we believe will be of interest to small business owners. This first article is by Oliver Mauss, CEO of 1&1 Internet Inc.

When developing an online business, it is very important to keep in mind the features and web design necessary to facilitate excellent customer service. Growing customer loyalty is especially crucial to the survival of online businesses, as impatient buyers have more and more competitors to choose from, and will quickly leave a site if they cannot communicate their questions or concerns in real-time.

In fact, according to the recent ‘Website Communication Survey’ of some 1,025 U.S. consumers conducted by 1&1 Internet, an alarming 77 percent of consumers said that they would switch to a competitor if a business website did not provide effective ways to communicate. With the expectations of customers for service growing by the day, you must think about which features can provide customers the best access to you and your business, while simultaneously saving time and making your business more effective. Below are five “must have” website communications tools that will ensure that your online business is growing customer loyalty.

1. A contact page with phone number, email address and post address

It seems simple, but it’s startling how many online businesses do not have a page providing traditional forms of communication (phone, email, mail) through which to reach a business. Absence of these traditional forms of communication can make a website lose that human touch, and can give the impression that requests could go into a black hole. The previously mentioned survey found that consumers report having been most irritated by being unable to find the contact phone number (91 percent) and unable to find the contact email (82 percent).

2. A map with directions to the business location

While your business may be strictly online, it never hurts to provide an easy way for your customers to reach you in-person. If customers can make a positive personal connection, their loyalty will often times be very strong. In fact, 68 percent of customers choose a small or medium-sized business for greater personal attention, and 51 percent chose them over a large corporation because of the individual relationship they build with the business. Stats aside, the fact that you’ve offered directions to your place of work evokes trust amongst website visitors – particularly with the number of malicious scams that have been executed through websites in recent years.

3. Real-time dialogue, such as live chat

Consumers are becoming increasingly keen on real-time live dialogue via the web –
49 percent use live chat and instant messenger tools in their personal lives 11+ times a month. Over 50 percent of consumers perceive companies that provide communication features such as real-time dialogue, as progressive, advanced, and eager to please the customer. As consumers become increasingly tech-savvy, the demand for easily accessible and advanced communication features is becoming more important for business websites. Chat features, which enable the customer to instant message members of your business in real time, can be easily incorporated into your website, and can provide an impressive way for customers to get answers through a direct and personal dialogue.

4. Quick response time to emails, chat, messages, etc.

As consumers become more tech-savvy, easily accessible and advanced communication features – and a quick response to communications through these features – are becoming more important for business websites. Centralizing notification of incoming emails, chats and other messages can help to speed the response time of inquiries. The payoff is clear - if a customer has a successful experience contacting your business, about 85 percent of the time they will bookmark your website.

5. A signup form to collect email addresses and send out newsletters

An absolute essential to building customer loyalty is finding a way to stay in touch with your customers to inform them of deals and new products. Website tools can be easily and inexpensively integrated into your website that will allow customers to enter their email address to automatically be added to a newsletter mailing list. This all goes back to creating a direct and personal dialogue to customers (the reason that many consumers choose smaller businesses in the first place).

To retain customers, it is important to continually research and develop website tools to maintain an interactive Web presence. These communication tools outlined above will enable your business to stand out and better compete against larger companies in your industry.

Businesses that fail to recognize the features that attract consumers to a website, and fail to use the right tools that turn a consumer into a loyal customer, are less likely to satisfy customers who expect support from start to finish. Consumers value an attentive, approachable and easily accessible business. They will not hesitate to move on to a competitor who better understands the meaning of ‘quality of experience.’ Whether it’s the immediate availability of contact information or real-time online messaging, consumers now place high expectations on businesses to provide an instant means of communication. Fortunately, these tools are no longer difficult or expensive to acquire.

About the Author:
Oliver Mauss, CEO, 1&1 Internet Inc.
Oliver Mauss is CEO of 1&1 Internet, as the world's largest web host by known servers. In his position, Mauss is in charge of 1&1's international web hosting operations. Before joining 1&1 in 2008, Oliver Mauss worked for Vodafone Group for over 10 years, most recently as the Global Director of Business Product Marketing. Before that he held positions in product management and business development at telecommunication companies and RWE Telliance. Oliver Mauss holds a Ph.D. in Communications Engineering from the University of Aachen, Germany.


Great advice... I see many

Great advice... I see many sites without the service area even mentioned-- Making it hard to tell whether their services are even available to me locally.

I'll have to amp up the communication sector of my site in response to this advice; that is, in addition to the current contact page.

Thank you.

P.S. Directions via a map are always helpful, however, my home office may not be a great "map to" location...just a thought.

I have a problem with 1and1.

I have a problem with 1and1. Your advice is good but your operations are run poorly.

Here is the complaint I registered with the BBB and Rip off Report Filed.

At the beginning of 2007 I found new employment and stopped maintaining service I had with 1and1. I had missed a payment in March of 2007 and promptly paid it once I realized I had still had the service. By the time I got the missed payment taken care of I canceled my service with 1and1. It is process that appears simple. You log into your account, select a cancel services process, and then wait to receive a email with a link to confirm cancellation. I performed those steps and then received an email saying 'Cancellation of Package as of 07/06/2007". Now, here I sit a year and a half later, looking at my credit report and there is a collections account on it. This is the first collections account I have ever had. After some digging, it turns out that it is in collections because of my 1and1 account. I called 1and1 billing to inquire about the mistake and they informed me that I had not completed their process to cancel the account. I informed that I had, and they continued to tell me what I did not do. They argued that I had not responded to the email to confirm I had canceled the account. I indicated that I had and had received additional notification that the account was closed. After becoming upset with David 1877go1and1 x2525. I realized that I will have to educate myself on how to dispute a charge.

The process that the

The process that the organization uses to ensure repeat business/usage of its products/services on an ongoing basis

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