By Peter Messana, Contributor
This is part two of a two-part series on the key touch points for our Customer Experience (CE) at Austin Kayak (ACK). Part one focused on the physical store, while the following explains how we are working to create a great customer experience online. For a little background, we operate three physical retail stores in Texas (Austin, San Marcos & Houston) and a successful Internet site
In the first part of this two part blog I laid out how we produce great and out of the ordinary Customer Experience (CE) to our customers that visit our brick and mortar stores. In the traditional world you get to interact with your Customer face-to-face. In some respects it is easy, they have devoted the time necessary to drive to your location and have invested time that for most of us is precious. Once in our stores, the sales conversation rate is amazingly high.
Now transfer that to the online world, we have been selling online for a little over five years and providing amazing CE, but the experience we provide online is much different than that in our physical stores, we are not afforded the opportunity to talk face-to-face and hold your hand, we don’t even know who you are until after you have placed your order (unless you have called).
One might think that to compete online you simply take your offline recipe and mimic it online, but you can’t, you don’t get to meet the customer until typically after they have purchased and meeting them means you get a name and address. We can’t offer a ‘Try before you buy’ -instead we have to find ways to make the decision easier.
Great online CE starts with trust, your customer has to trust you, they invest very little time running a google search and clicking links, you might be one of ten places, all with the same price; you have to get them to ‘trust’ you and fast. I mentioned in my first part that the conversation rate in our physical stores is absurdly high, in the online world it is absurdly low, people don’t have to invest true ‘time’ shopping you, they come and go and fast, you have to gain the trust and gain it fast.
One quick way we try to gain trust is by putting our phone number on every single web page. We want you to call, we really do. Those that call convert near the absurd physical store conversation rates and the average sale for a phone order is 3x the amount. If we could get every online customer to call it would be heavenly. If you do call, don’t expect some call center person answering the phone, we hire real people that love the outdoors and talking to people. Notice I said nothing about sales people, we have a policy that prohibits the hiring of phone sales people, they are great at selling widgets, we sell experiences.
While getting people to call is a great goal it is unattainable, most people shopping online want absolutely nothing to do with talking to people, they will email you before calling. While not nearly as good as a phone call, email requires another form of trust. Hit the “Contact Us” and send an inquiry and chances are that you will get a reply back instantly. Our average response time is 19 minutes. If 19 minutes does not sound fast, that number includes nights when no one is staffing our email system. Email is a fantastic venue if you do it right. Our replies are thorough and if you put your phone number in the first email we will call you, you gave us the right and we aren’t going to pass up the chance.
To gain further trust we have messaging at each step of the shopping experience, should you not call or email, we are up front that our shipping is free for all orders over $39, no gimmicks, add $39.01 to the cart and shipping is gone, no coupon necessary. Add an item to you cart and view your cart, we put the final price right there for you, we don’t need your zip code to figure out your shipping cost, it is $4.95 if under $39 and $0 if over, fairly simple. Checkout is three simple steps where we don’t over message you, no cross selling allowed in our checkout process, it is about speed and simplicity.
So you have trusted us enough to place an order, this is where the magic happens and where the true CE takes place. All the promises made are only good if you keep them. We are lightening fast in our order processing and shipping. To us, this is where the real juju happens, it is where we spent our time building our own technology that allows us to ensure all orders are shipped that we promised and then some. That shipping clock I mentioned counts down till 4pm, but really if you get your order in by 6pm it is going out that day, those that order between 4 and 6pm are told it will ship tomorrow, that is a lie, we are over-delivering. Our processing and shipping is fast because we built it from the ground up, we didn’t have to adhere to someone else’s process. We made the process first, the technology second.
How fast is our shipping? If you live in Texas you will have your order tomorrow and if you ordered on Friday and picked a residential address it is going to be arriving on Saturday, no extra charge. Don’t live in Texas, no problem, we cover 85% of the country in 3 days or less, some of that is just plain luck of shipping out of Texas, but it is also due to our shipping technology that we built to figure out the fastest and cheapest route to get you the order.
Once we have your order you are hooked on our Customer Experience and for us it is about the referral business and the repeat business. In the online world you are only as good as your last performance and with countless competitors you had better always be on top of your game, a slip up and the customer is gone in a flash, if you are lucky they go quietly, if not you find yourself following their tweets, blogs and forum postings.
What you probably have noticed, the CE online is nothing like that of our physical stores in that the processes are very different, what is the same is our product selection, pricing, and no pushy sales efforts. Importantly, straight honesty is the same, the difference is you have to work that much harder online to convert a customer and you often don’t get to talk to them to gain any trust.
Peter Messana is CEO and Co-Owner of ACK. Part II of his piece, describing how ACK provides incredible ONLINE Customer Experience, will appear on Wednesday, April 4th.