e-Tailers All Have Cows; Just A Few Have Found the Goose


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‘Tis definitely the season. Holiday jingles are spewing from every corner and my inbox fills daily with promises of free shipping and extended Cyber Monday sales. I can’t seem to hide from the electronic bombardment of stores touting their wares. This got me thinking about how I feel about these retailers. Quite frankly, remote sellers have a disadvantage when it comes to creating an emotional connection with me, and probably other consumers, which means that my loyalty usually doesn’t run very deep. If the offer is right and they don’t mess up the order, I might buy from them again but a slightly better offer from another vendor will probably sway me to the other side.

In our
href=”http://www.peoplemetrics.com/practices/ce/mec.htm”>2010 Most Engaged Customers study we learned that genuine, authentic interactions are necessary to create high levels of Customer Engagement. In other words, the opportunity to interact with real people and connect in some memorable way is an essential ingredient in getting customers to love you. This is clearly harder in the point and click world of e-Tailing.

Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh is famous for his unique philosophy on building lifelong relationships with online clientele. Zappos knows that a personal connection is essential and encourages customers to call rather than do everything online. And it appears that others may be cottoning on to the need to deliver personalized service in unusual ways.

Last week, for instance, another lesser known online store earned my lifelong loyalty by doing just that. They are
href=”http://www.ebeanstalk.com/”>ebeanstalk an online toy store for kids 0-12. I have always liked ebeanstalk because they have a unique selection of toys organized by age that have been selected and approved by developmental psychologists. Their offer is really quite good. The day after I placed my order I didn’t get the typical, functional ‘your order has shipped’ message but rather a personal email from my own customer service manager named Emily. In addition to providing me with her email and phone number, Emily’s note said: “The reason for this email is to let you know that ebeanstalk is a very different company. We focus 100% on customer service and make sure every customer has a point of contact at ebeanstalk.”

WOW, right? Now I love ebeanstalk!

As somebody personally and professionally obsessed with making great service contagious, I got in touch with Brian Gordon, ebeanstalk’s co-founder. Brian has a strong point of view that ebeanstalk should treat customers like friends. The personal email is a relatively new component of their customer experience strategy that appears to be paying dividends. Like Tony Hsieh, Brian Gordon actually wants to talk to his customers. He told me: “I love it when people call. And I love the problems. A bad experience is a chance to surprise someone. I’ll say ‘throw it away, we’ll send you a new one, you don’t need to send it back.’ After that we’ve got them for life.”

The ebeanstalk magic goes beyond the ability to ferret out problems before they turn into bigger ones. Brian also knows that giving employees the authority to make customers happy – like granting them a lifetime discount if they feel the situation warrants it – is even more important. According to Brian, customers are responding positively, returning for more and recommending their site to others.

Brian and his ebeanstalk, just like Jack in the children’s story by the same name, is willing to take a risk and trade the old reliable cow for the possibility of greater rewards. Of course there are businesses who think ebeanstalk ‘s investment in personal service is unnecessary. But, while they stay safely on the ground with their cows, ebeanstalk may just have sewed the magic seeds that will produce a lifetime’s supply of golden eggs.

Have you been ‘wow’ed’ by an eRetailer lately? If so, we’d love to hear your story.

Kate Feather
Kate is the leader of Customer Experience Transformation practice at PeopleMetrics. She partners with dozens of Fortune 1000 companies to provide Customer Experience Strategy and Voice of the Customer consulting services.


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