3 Surefire Signs That Your Company Website Is Obsolete
A decade ago, I remember being told that the Internet was just a fad used by tech fans, kids and computer geeks. If you wanted a business to make money, my colleagues said, nothing would replace the traditional brick and mortar model anytime soon. In short, selling to and servicing clients online was trendy and cool, but phone calls, faxes and face-to-face business was where the money was.
Today, of course, a company without a website or an online presence is almost unheard of. Businesses today – large or small, service or product-oriented – all use the Internet to identify, reach, persuade and service both new and existing customers. You have no doubt jumped on the bandwagon yourself, but are you getting the most out of the technology?
Fifteen years ago, having a website at all, with maybe a contact form and some information about your products and services, was pretty impressive. You were on the cutting edge. Today, however, Web-savvy customers expect much more.
Too many Materials Handling Web sites are constructed like an elaborate magazine ad (remember magazines?). Pretty pictures are accompanied by vague claims of huge inventories and low prices, but very little real information is provided. Customers are asked to fill out a form with all sorts of information about their business and its material handling needs. They submit the form and eventually they may get a catalog in the mail. If they are lucky, they may even get a phone call. As far as today’s customer is concerned, there are three HUGE problems with this practice.
People today are more careful about sharing sensitive information with strangers. Every website owner is a stranger until an ongoing business relationship has been established. Even simple things like a business name and address can be used by the site owner or sold to someone else for purposes other than providing the information requested in the contact form.
Recently, I filled out one of these forms on a website making a free offer. I used my own home address but my dog’s name. Within a few months, my dog received three credit card applications. I was amused, but not all that surprised. Today’s customers (myself included) know that you want something from them, so be upfront with them about what it is, how it will be used and what they should expect in return.
- Make sure that your site is secure. Tell your visitors that it’s a secure site. Prove that it’s a secure site by displaying the SSL certificate, or any other security service badges that your site conforms to.
- Assure customers that you won’t sell their information to others without their permission. Give them the option of receiving future communications from you. People don’t mind being on a list as long as they know they can choose to get off it whenever they want to.
Sign 2: Your Terms are as Transparent as a Black Brick Wall.
Everybody says that their prices are low and their inventory is huge. Everybody claims to be great people to do business with. Your customers have heard the empty promises for years and now they’re cynical. They don’t believe in free lunches, so tell them just what lunch is going to cost.
- Tell them exactly what your prices are, right on your website. Your customers will appreciate it, and you will benefit too. It’s much easier and cheaper to keep price information up to date online than constantly updating a printed catalog.
- Don’t brag about your inventory or your prices if you’re not willing to display them. Don’t make claims that cannot be substantiated by viewing your site. If you have a large inventory then show it, post it & displaying it for all to see.
- Show visitors exactly what it would be like to do business with you by proving a link to your Terms and Conditions on your website. Provide links to your Better Business Bureau profile and customer reviews.
Sign 3: You Think Support & Service Tools like Online Chat are “Just Gimmicks.”
Everything moves faster today. People don’t want to fill in a form and wait for a response. They want somebody to answer their questions and solve their problems and they want it now. Fortunately, there is a simple way for you to meet these expectations. Thanks to your website, your customers already have a direct line to your company. All you have to do is have somebody at the other end of the line.
- Provide Instant Chat capability on your website and make sure that it is manned constantly. If 24 hour service is unrealistic, establish regular hours and post them clearly on your site.
- No outsourcing to idiots! Put qualified professionals on your end of the chat line – people that can answer questions and solve problems now instead of promising to get back to the customer at a later time. It is just that kind of delay that the instant chat is designed to eliminate.
The Internet has changed over the past fifteen years, and your customers have changed with it. If you can’t keep up, you may have to get out of the way. Let us know any other tips you have for leveraging your website to build better customer relationships by leaving us a comment below.