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Service With a Smile

Service With a Smile

April 3, 2009
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" Timeliness is vital "

For many adult paysite operators, member retention and the resulting recurring billing is the name of the game. And one of the keys to member retention is providing prompt, comprehensive and courteous service. This comes in the form of making the membership experience as satisfying and hassle-free as possible — encompassing everything from easy-to-understand terms of service and streamlined join forms to rapid responses to password or other login issues, plus straightforward cancellation procedures and more. Here are a few tips to guide you through the process.

One of the benefits of shopping online is that it can be quicker and easier than calling and talking to someone in hopes of placing a phone order. But if the online shopping and checkout process takes longer or is otherwise more cumbersome, then the site is failing at its intended purpose and disappointing your customers at the same time.

Order-confirmation screens and emails are a vital step in reassuring the customer that the transaction was successful and the ordering process completed. The screen, email or other communication tool that you use to covey this information to the customer also is a great opportunity to make a related upsell or other complimentary offering.

Timeliness is vital: Nobody likes to wait for a response to their customer inquiries. In the case of email support, less-than-24-hour turnaround times should be expected, while companies with a focus on customer service will offer live 24/7 phone and chat support.

For example, when you have a question, comment or complaint about a product or service you've paid for, do you want to be kept on hold for an eternity, wading through automated telephone menus, only to be disconnected? Or to have your emails go unanswered — while the billing continues? Or search the site you ordered the product from for a customer service link or feedback form? Neither do your customers.

With that in mind, the ease and speed with which an operator can respond to customer inquires could be the major factor in determining how a customer perceives the company because regardless of anything else, if the service is slow, a customer isn't likely to return.

Providing quick, quality customer support is incredibly important to your site's retention levels and as such the same care and redundancy you used in your site's billing options also should be reflected in your service options, such as phone, email, ICQ and Skype-based support.

Beyond timeliness, the tone of your communications also can play a major role — with considerations such as the presentation of your content, the site's navigation and appearance and whether you are "formal" or "friendly" with your customers.

For example, a corporate adult mega-site might want to use certain lawyer-approved formalities and a "Dear Sir" approach, whereas with members to my personal website, I'm much more likely to take a "Hey honey, thanks for getting in touch with me …" tone.

The customization of the user experience also should not be overrated — even such seemingly little touches as a bold "Welcome back, Ayrora!" message when I log into a website can go a long way toward making me feel comfortable with an online company and its offers. Merchants that are able to extend the interactivity and personalization of their websites can create a warm and inviting place for customers to want to spend their time — and money.

Creating this cheerful environment is the Holy Grail for usability experts — and as with search engine marketing, it's more of a journey than a destination. It's also important to note that the feeling you wish to convey to customers depends in part on what your offer and its market expect. For example, a BDSM site might not want to project a "cheerful" atmosphere to its visitors.

What are the rules for being polite online? Where do we draw the boundaries of etiquette in e-commerce? While this is a broad issue that is commonly grappled by online user communities, having professional support staff that will remain courteous despite the way they may be treated by an irate customer is of vital concern to adult site operators who may be fielding calls from upset spouses.

One important thing to remember when handling support for your website is that the person who contacts you with a complaint could just as easily have called the bank and done a chargeback — which you definitely do not want. Instead, they presented you with an opportunity to protect your merchant status and to perhaps make another sale, with the outcome of the contact being up to the support agent's attitude and demeanor.

"The customer is always right" — unless he's lying, cheating or stealing from you, of course. How will you know? Website operators need to deploy technologies that allow customer service reps to know all about the customer and what he's really been up to on your website. Software like Phantom Frog, for example, will report on how many times a user has accessed your site, when those accesses occurred and from where. Having this information is vital when dealing with folks who claim they never joined or used your website and have "no idea of where these credit card charges came from."

Beyond preserving your ability to process credit card transactions, opportunities abound for extending your brand and increasing sales through customer service communications.

Monthly or weekly email newsletters can be used for a variety of support tasks, such as providing a recap of the month's website news and future updates; upcoming public events where the site's model(s) may be appearing; offering renewal discounts to former or expiring members; and soliciting feedback about the site, its content, features and operations using brief survey forms both online and embedded into the newsletter.

The main thing to keep in mind when developing a customer service strategy is that you're dealing with people — not just "members" or "traffic" but people just like you. Frankly, the best customer service strategy comes from the Bible: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Get that part right, and you'll be on the road to success.


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