Giving Online Customers More
"Many standard e-commerce applications lack integration. Customer service should be offered up front rather than later in the site and live chat should be available from several locations within the site."
When one of the leading online health and wellness stores was ready to expand, it really wanted to offer its customers more--more selection, more convenience, more savings. In addition to expanding its product line, for GreenTree.com that "more" meant expanding the functionality of its Web site and ultimately renaming and relaunching the company.
Last summer, the then one-year-old GreenTree.com took its product line of vitamins, minerals, herbs and other wellness products and added prescriptions, beauty and other personal health products to the shelf. The company wanted to offer more than just natural health products--it wanted to be the place to fulfill all of its customers' health, beauty and wellness needs by becoming a complete online pharmacy or drugstore. Thus more.com was born.
The company knew that customer service was becoming a main discriminator for consumers. A brand name might get buyers in the door, but good service will keep them coming back. More.com realized that customer service needed to become an integral part of its Web site and the shopping experience that the site offered.
Prior to the company relaunch, more.com's customer service director spent six weeks evaluating customer relationship management products that might meet the company's needs, including Business Evolution, Kana, Oracle, Brightware and eGain.
In the end, the company decided to go with Quintus WebCenter 2.3 for three reasons: live chat, queuing, and ease of integration and implementation. The product allows more.com to offer its customers instant personal interaction with customer service agents online.
"I have been involved with Web software for six years and less than 10 percent of projects are launched on time," says Eric Budin, more.com vice president of corporate development. "We launched on time and with more functionality than expected," he tells. "We are excited and happy with our decision, the implementation and the product usage."
Forrester Research reports 67 percent of online shoppers leave a Web site without purchasing anything. The research group says this is an underlying cause of the low 2.7 percent average conversion rate of lookers to buyers. Privately held more.com would not provide specific figures, but the conversion rate of browsers to buyers has increased significantly since the relaunch, Budin says. "Each page now has a much higher conversion rate than it did as GreenTree.com."
Previously, customers had to log off the system to make a phone call or send an e-mail to ask a question. E-mail responses could take up to 24 hours, and by that time the customer might be lost. With WebCenter's ability for instant response, "now we are able to close the sale," says Budin. "The live chat function is one of the reasons we chose the product. We knew it would serve as a valuable sales tool," he concludes.
"Online chat responses are immediate. With WebCenter 2.3 live chat, less than 1 percent of users are waiting for a response," says Budin. "Each person in the call center can handle several calls at once." This is accomplished by accessing a database of standard responses to frequently asked questions. The customer service agent can cut and paste from these responses and amend as necessary to completely and expeditiously answer each specific question. E-mail queries are responded to within three hours but often will be answered immediately.
"For now a human being does look at each message," says Sarah Bernard, more.com customer service director. WebCenter is capable of offering intelligent responses, but for now more.com is not using that function. The company wants to remain in touch with what its customers need and want.
"Anyone who has worked in a call center appreciates the product because it does provide three options for responding to customers: live chat, telephone call or e-mail," explains Bernard.
About 30 people currently work in the more.com call center and the number is growing. WebCenter allows one person to deal with multiple queries more efficiently than before, but because of the growing popularity of the site, more operators are needed to handle the expanded call volume.
"WebCenter also helps the call center bring the rest of the company closer together. A call center representative can cc: actual call notes to the proper person rather than filtering or trying to relay information. This helps us bring the company closer to meeting the customer's needs," says Bernard. Such fluidity is achieved because WebCenter is integrated within the existing company infrastructure and leverages the existing technology.
"We have had an enormous positive response from our customers," says Bernard. Dean Cruse, former vice president of marketing at Acuity, explains that such satisfaction is rooted in the integrated look and feel of the site. "Many standard e-commerce applications lack integration. Customer service should be offered up front rather than later in the site and live chat should be available from several locations within the site." The key is making it easy for the customer to shop on the site.
More.com is the main consumer storefront for the Web site offering health and beauty products from toothpaste to bandages. GreenTree.com remains as a subset within the more.com site, offering natural products and health information resources. The site also provides the Acumins store, where customers can select and purchase a customized vitamin plan just for them. A recent agreement with Bergen Brunswick also brought prescription products to the site.
One site feature that more.com showcases is its QuickShop function. By using QuickShop, customers can quickly review a shopping basket of commonly purchased items. "The average trip to the drugstore takes 46 minutes," says Budin. Using QuickShop customers can spend much less time on the site and come away with the same items or even more, he adds.
In addition, Budin says more.com features more than 25,000 different items or SKUs while the average pharmacy only sells about 3,000 different items. "We want to continually expand our product lines and offer products not available in drugstores," says Budin. Toward this end, customer product requests are welcomed by more.com. "We value that type of feedback," he says.
Budin comments on more.com's edge over its online competitors: "Many other online stores are more difficult to navigate and we also work to keep our prices lower than the other online stores."
More.com customers receive extensive support while shopping online. WebCenter allows customers to chat instantly online with customer service agents with questions about merchandise, shipping or pricing. Users can also send an e-mail message that will be routed to the proper person at the company. The product-synchronized browser even allows the call center agent to get on the same page with the customer and guide him through the store if desired.
Training and Support
The company took a "train the trainer" approach to educating the staff on how to use WebCenter. "All people in the company are trained on the product and anyone is capable of working in the call center," says Budin.
Bernard said that the training session only took about three hours. "We wanted everyone at more.com to be familiar with how the product worked and how to treat customers within the system." She was pleased with the product because the interface is similar to many e-mail systems that people have used. Bernard finds WebCenter to be an intuitive program. "The technology makes sense. The product is simple to use because it is e-mail based and the icons are logical."
"Customers are demanding faster and more personal service on the Net and e-retailers must provide a whole new level of support in order to meet their needs effectively," says Don Kendall, founder and CEO of more.com. "The WebCenter Suite provides us with a complete customer service solution and offers our customers extensive real-time support while they are shopping online."