This is a continuation of my outlined differences of the responsibilities between running a physical store and running and e-commerce website, and who should be in charge of them. The first part of this can be read in yesterday's Nugget. Today I'll cover:
* Customer Engagement
* Customer Satisfaction
* Jewelry Repairs
Only jewelry repair is unique to the jewelry industry, everything else listed here is common across all industries. I'll share how handling them for a physical store is different than how you handle them for an online store according to how I've experienced them. Use my experiences as guidelines for yourself and not as official legal or business advice.
This idea of customer engagement really became popular because of social networking, but this engagement process existed long before the internet. When a customer walks into your small retail store, how long do you wait before greeting them and asking them how you can help? Your in-store engagement actually happens when a sales associate is interacting face-to-face with a customer. Your goal should be to get to know your customers and make them feel welcomed.
Although online customer engagement isn't face-to-face, you still have the ability to get to know the people who regularly interact with your Facebook page, Google+ Page, and Twitter. Want to give your customers a great online engagement experience? Then you need to learn the names of the people who interact with you, and their Twitter usernames. This is what many retail jewelers fail to realize when they hire some outside company that attempts to engage using cookie-cutter social engagement methods across dozens of jewelry store accounts. Your online engagement process should be managed by someone who knows your business and who is good at personable conversations.
Who's in charge of making customers happy when they walk into your store upset about something? You? Your store manager? What's the normal process to satisfy a customer when a potential transaction has gone wrong? There are other "satisfaction" situations but the one's I've mentioned above are obvious, and require some level of authority to remedy.
Online customer satisfaction comes into play whenever someone contacts you directly by chat, email, or telephone. All of your policies and procedures need to be written out in detail on your website, and if a person has questions they will contact you. People who buy online are always fearful of return policies, shipping, return shipping, and if a real person will answer the phone if they have to call. I also need to stress that whoever answers your telephone must know and truly understand your policies so they can articulate them to customers on the phone without saying things like "let me check that answer for you" or "I think it works this way." Who's going to answer your phone? Don't outsource this task unless you are also providing impeccable training for your call center.
I mention this because often times the proper insurance coverage is overlooked. You, the store owner, are responsible for explaining to your insurance agent all the types of products and services that you provide. Your insurance agent also needs to know about your physical store, customer access, walkways, doorways, security, safe, and the type of coverage your landlord provides and what you are required to provide.
Of all the things I listed above, the only thing that might be different about your e-tail insurance policy are the details about customer access. Many insurance policies for physical stores include clauses for interruption of business, but that type of protection might not be available for an e-commerce business. In 2012 several insurance companies started excluding business interruption protection due to hacking, hard drive failure, or lack of backup. You, the business owner, must sit down with your insurance agent and tell them exactly how your e-commerce business works and let them write the correct policy for you.
Although I mentioned this as a store responsibility there really shouldn't be any difference between your bookkeeping process between a physical retail store and an e-commerce store. If you're not good with crunching numbers then you should have a bookkeeper taking care of this for you.
The only difference between a physical store and e-commerce bookkeeping might be the software you use. Physical store usually have some type of point of sale computer that either includes accounting functionality built in, or it exports to more proficient accounting programs like QuickBooks. A good E-commerce software platform should also provide all the functionality of the POS as well as the export ability for accounting software. The only difference between the POS and e-commerce software is that the customers are able to interact with it on their own without a sales associate.
Your daily opening procedures include unlocking the door, disarming the alarm, turning the lights on, stocking the showcases, and starting the coffee maker. Throughout the day there are other normal procedures you follow for selling to customers, reordering inventory, taking in repairs, paying bills, maintaining the computer systems... this list is endless. All these procedures are part of your operations, and usually your store manager is in charge of making sure it all runs smoothly.
Can you say which part of your overall operations is most important for your retail store? For e-commerce the most important part of your operations will be the website, which includes the physical web server, the web server software, the website software, hard drive backups, and battery backup. Although you might still have a manager taking care of the business, the operation of your website needs to be monitored by someone with technical skill. This should be your IT staff or your hosting company.
Obviously jewelry repair is something a B&M retail jeweler should offer as a normal service, but it's not something normally offered by e-commerce jewelers. I've included jewelry repair on this list because I know several jewelry stores that have close their B&M stores and transitioned 100% to selling online. During the transition they wondered what to do with their repair shop and all their tools.
Retail stores transitioning to E-tail jewelers could provide a much higher level of service if they keep their repair shop open. Customers won't be bringing you repairs in person, but you can offer free repairs for any item that you have sold through your site. You could add a repair policy to your website along with the returns and shipping policies I mentioned above. Not many e-commerce website have a "repair policy" and this could be a way to shine above other websites.
As I said above, these are just my guidelines as I experienced them. Please talk to your own insurance agent, legal counsel, and accountant for specific advice for running your own business.