Odyssey bloghelping you leverage the potential of the internet

Customer Service Online

18. November 2010 20:26

customer service

There are lots of things to consider when you plan to take the leap into eCommerce.  One of the most neglected, but most important, is customer service.  A lot of businesses assume they can set-up a website and payment solution and it will take care of itself.

Due to the fact that customers cannot physically see/feel the products you sell online prior to purchase you WILL get customers asking you questions.  The amount and type of product queries you get will depend on the type of products you sell on your website and the prices they sell for.

The other type of customer query you will need to deal with concerns fulfilment.

“When will my purchase be dispatched?”

“My purchase hasn’t arrived”

“I was sent the wrong colour product”

“My order was missing XYZ product”

What is your delivery charge?”


Create a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Page

If you spend some time creating an FAQ page on your website you can avoid a lot of emails and phone calls about the most common customer queries, but you still need to be responsive to customers and give them customer service when required. 

This is more important online than in a physical shop because they have bought a product from you without ever meeting you or your business.  They have put a certain amount of trust in you and your business.

Customer Service Touch Points

Set up various customer touch points such as a dedicated customer service email inbox, a free-phone or local rate customer service phone line and make sure you answer customer queries promptly.

Proactive Customer Service

If there is a problem with a customers order, then let them know as soon as possible and how you plan to resolve the issue.  Most customers will be happy to wait a bit longer or choose a similar product as an alternative. 

Remember if you screw up you could lose any repeat business from those customers!  On the flipside if you provide a great service, you are more likely to get recommended to others and generate more sales.

Picture used under Creative Commons from Alan Cleaver


Category: Ecommerce

Understanding Website Analysis

18. March 2010 18:51

Get into the habit of regularly assessing your website.  Examine your web stats, sales, costs and competitors and keep a record of your findings, so that you can track trends and progress in reaching your goals (You do have goals for your website right?).

magnifying glass

Ensure you make a note of dates when you make significant changes to your website as these will allow you to attribute changes in your traffic and visitor behaviour and you’ll know if the changes had a positive effect or not.

Use your web stats to understand:

  • Who your audience is and where they live (What time zones are they in?)
  • Why they are visiting your website (What search terms do your visitors arrive via)
  • How long your visitors spend on your site (Do they only read one page and leave, or do they spend several minutes browsing your site?)
  • What languages they speak (Are your users predominantly English speaking?)

Understand your audience by examining your web stats; never assume you know your audience or their reasons for visiting.

Google Analytics average time on site

If your website stats do not answer all your questions, you may need to consider using a site survey or even adding your questions to your site registration form if you have one.

Create Goals

Decide what actions on your site constitute a conversion and create goals within Google Analytics to measure these conversions.
Conversions do not need to be sales, they could be user registrations, user enquiries or other actions that have some value to your business.

Easy Wins

After examining your site visitor behaviour, try to determine simple tweaks you can apply to your website to improve user experience and encourage more conversions.

Ascertain what sections/pages of your website are popular with your visitors and try to improve these pages so that visitors are greeted with a page more optimised to their needs, thereby increasing the chances of them converting.


Google Analytics map overlay

If you discover a large percentage of visitors are from non-English speaking countries, consider adding a translation widget or getting a professional translation of certain pages/sections or even the whole website, don't take the British attitude and assume everyone speaks English!


Lead picture used under Creative Commons from somegeekintn


Category: Web Analytics

Should I Buy Web Hosting with my Domain Name?

24. February 2010 18:39

Frequently asked question:

I've just bought a domain name for my business and was offered a good deal on web hosting, should I buy it?

Our answer:
Before we answer this question, it would help if we understood a bit more about what web hosting actually is.

Data Centre

Web hosting is essentially a leased space where you can upload your website and make it accessible to users on the Internet.

Websites are hosted in data centres which have very fast connections to the internet, they essentially consist of many special computers called servers.  These servers can host anything from one to many hundreds of websites each.  “Web servers” as they are known can use different operating systems too, much the same way as desktop computers can run Windows Vista or Apple OSX, they can also come preinstalled with many different types of software that you can use for your website.

As you can begin to see web hosting from one company isn't necessarily comparable to web hosting from another.  There are lots of factors you need to look at to compare one service to another, and as with computer software, some packages are not compatible with different servers.

As a general rule, we ask customers to avoid purchasing web hosting because the package you purchase might not be suitable for your website.  The CMS (Content Management System) might not be compatible, the server might have too many other websites running on it which may make your website slow to load.  There can also be hidden charges such as extra bandwidth bills if your website becomes really popular or you have videos or other large files on your site.

Picture used under Creative Commons from cbowns


Category: Domain Names

Determine Your Business's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

23. February 2010 18:38
  • Do you ever analyse your business?
  • Do you know what your business strengths and weaknesses are?
  • Do you know of any external threats to your business?
  • Do you assess potential opportunities for your business?

If you answered no to any of these questions you should consider performing SWOT analysis on your business.

What is SWOT analysis?

SWOT analysis (Strength's, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) is a method of assessing a business.

SWOT Analysis

By undertaking the SWOT process you'll have a better understanding of your business and your market place.

You'll discover what you do well, what you need to improve, whether there are potential opportunities you could take advantage of as well as potential external threats.

Start by using a grid with four columns, one each for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Objectively look at every aspect of your business and its products and services with your team, try to look at the big picture rather than concentrating on minutiae.  Encourage the team to analyse your business and categorise what you do into the four columns. 
Examples might include a poorly structured website, low ranking in search engines compared to your competitors and low profit margins.

Evaluate your strengths and compare them to your competitors.  Ask yourself whether there are improvements to be made.

Identify where expertise is lacking and what would be needed to fill the gap, also consider how you might turn your weaknesses around creating new opportunities.

Try to be totally honest and realistic. It sometimes helps to get an outsiders’ viewpoint on your business strengths and weaknesses.

Analyse the threats to your business.  Try to come up with a "what if" plan to deal with potential threats. This will mean you'll be able to react quicker should any of the threats become reality, since you would have already considered what you might do if such an outcome materialised.

Finally, try to learn from the outcome of your SWOT analysis, plan to build on your strengths, reduce your weaknesses and minimise the risks to your business.

Be proactive and plan to integrate SWOT analysis into your business strategy and perform it at regular intervals to react to changing business conditions.

Picture used under Creative Commons from jean-louis zimmermann


Category: Business Services

7 benefits of using an Open Source CMS

16. January 2010 17:19

With both large and small organisations turning to open source content management solutions (CMS) including high profile websites like Whitehouse.gov, we look at the some of the benefits of using an open source CMS.

Floppy disk dismantled

  1. No propriety license fees - More development time and money can go on creating a beautiful website than on the CMS.
  2. High quality and stable software - Many hours of development have gone into building open source software by a community of skilled and dedicated programmers.
  3. Safe and secure - Generally if security holes are discovered software patches for open source software are released very quickly.
  4. Customisable - Because the source code is accessible, there are always plenty of plug-ins contributed by the community to add functionality to open source CMS.
  5. Large communities - Generally open source projects have a large active community who can help you solve problems.
  6. Source code is freely available - Should you ever need to tinker with the core software you have access to the code.
  7. Not locked into a single vendor - Other developers can easily extend or update your website should you ever need to.

Picture used under Creative Commons from Rob Hayes