I was recently left very disappointed by an online experience which started really well…
Having spent a few hours looking for a suitable restaurant for an anniversary meal with my partner I elected for a well-known Michelin starred establishment.
Their website had fantastic images of great looking food, the content stressed the freshness of ingredients and their commitment to local seasonal produce. There was a fantastic set of reviews to back all this up and they had a recommendation from one of our friends. With all this in mind, and having convinced myself that the significant financial outlay would be suitably compensated by Kat’s appreciation of a romantic gesture I decided to proceed… what happened next cost this restaurant a large part of my January salary.
I filled out a long enquiry form specifying a date, time, dietary requirements, provisionally picked a set menu and gave my details including a contact phone number. I felt I’d put in a fair amount of effort to get to this point- so I was hoping for a reply confirming if the restaurant had availability to confirm my booking. Instead I got..
The least helpful email of all time
From: XXXXX XXXXX
Sent: 11 December 2011 10:16
To: Jonathan Eaton
Subject: RE: Enquiry
Dear Mr Eaton,
Thank you for your enquiry. Please call me to discuss this further.
(0111) 1234567 / email@example.com
All that time and effort put into the marketing of this restaurant, the money spent on design and photography, the investment in advertising and PR to put the name of the restaurant on my radar…. Ruined.
You may think I’m being harsh here but I don’t think so. I’d made my choice, defined my preferences, braced myself for extraordinarily high expenditure and all I got was a lousy email asking me to call up. What was the point in me filling in the form or going on the website at all- if I’d known I should call up I would have called up!
From filling the form in the very least I expected was a call from the restaurant if anything was unclear. The person sending the email reply had not even bothered to include the phone number for me to call in the body of the message.
Whether the member of staff who I interacted with at the restaurant was uniquely bad I’ll never know (I won’t be enquiring again!) but I think this episode did raise an important point. Online customer service needs to be constant, consistent and responsive.
My top tips for a successful online enquiry communication strategy for 2012:
- If someone has qualified their request in a website form this needs to be reflected in the response sent back to them (definitely do not email back asking them to repeat their request over the phone).
- If your product or service costs a large amount of money make sure that extra care is taken in customer service to keep the customer journey special. Going that little bit further can make all the difference.
- Make sure your staff know the journey(s) which customers make prior to submitting an online enquiry.
- Ensure your website messaging is consistent with your standard sales process. If taking bookings or handling enquiries is not possible without a sales person's input make submitting requests simple so potential customers do not get the impression that they are self-serving.
- Make sure the 'action' for customers to take is obvious at each stage. If you want them to clarify preferences say so, if you want to confirm a booking, sale or meeting make this really clear.
- Be aware of what your main competitors are doing in relation to online enquiries. Submit enquiries on their websites and look at the responses you get. Is the response better than yours? Could it be improved?
Fancy A Chat?
If you follow the above advice you shouldn't go far wrong. If you have anything else about online communication you would like my advice on please drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or give me a call on 0114 279 2750.