The Ultimate Guide: Shopping for bicycles and gear online is a multipart report with tips, trends and analysis of the Australian Market. You can download the ebook version. This part looks at communicating with the online shop.
Communicating with the online shop
One of the frustrations when shopping online is communicating with the shop if things go wrong. With your LBS, a phone call or trip to the shop will at least allow you to raise your issue, irrespective of the outcome. Online shopping in comparison is relatively anonymous and usually a sale is completed automatically (from the customer perspective).
These automatic processes mean lower overheads for the online shop however the effectiveness of the online shop in responding to customers can seriously impact upon their reputation.
As a customer, you should look for a telephone number and an email address before purchasing. Although it is usually unrealistic to visit the retailer in the case of problems, if the online shop only has a P.O. Box rather than a street address, it is difficult to judge where the shop/office is located and what is behind the company.
Email is one of the most convenient forms of communicating with an online shop. The better shops respond within two working days, or faster. If you have a problem with the delivery or gear, keep your communication simple and factual. If there is trouble getting a satisfactory response or a reply at all, try using a search engine with the aim of locating online discussion forums in which alternative contact information for the shop in question has been shared by others who have dealt with the shop.
The quickest approach to solving a problem is via telephone, your issue will typically be dealt with sooner and while it may not be solved immediately, often a phone call is enough for clarification. That being said, some online shops may not be setup properly to handle telephone support. For overseas shops, the cost of calling long distance may be a hurdle. To save costs, you can purchase a cheap overseas calling card or set up Skype which has affordable rates (for calling a landline via your computer).
Some shops now offer online chats within the web browser and while the chats may only operate during shop business hours, usually simple queries and issues can be answered or resolved quickly by competent staff.
Be aware that it is easier and cheaper for a shop to ignore problems. While ignoring customers is not good for long term business success, some customers will give up. For small problems, if the online retailer is not cooperating and you only stand to loose a small amount, it may be easier to cut your losses rather than fight for a moral victory. Often the larger online shops will concede to the customer’s advantage as return customers are valuable.
Tip: If you have a problem with an online order, keep a journal of phone calls and emails. This can help you to remember the name of a staff member or telephone numbers and other details.
This is article is from The Ultimate Guide: Shopping for bicycles and gear online. You can download the entire ebook (free) from here.
You can discuss this article and the ebook in the Australian Cycling Forums.