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Scott Sanfilippo

Creating a Consistent Customer Service Experience

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog post comes from Katrina Domkowski, manager of Call Center Operations here at Solid Cactus.  Katrina’s team handles customer service calls for hundreds of businesses who outsource their customer service and administrative duties to our highly skilled, and very friendly, CSRs in our Pennsylvania office.  If you’re considering outsourcing or just need a little extra help during the busy periods, Katrina and her team are ready to help.  Just call 1.888.361.9814 for more information on Call Center Services from Solid Cactus.

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customer service woman smilingCustomers crave a consistent experience, though that is quickly becoming the differentiator as opposed to the norm. In the early stages of business, generally the business owner is responsible for all aspects of the business, including customer service and managing customer interactions. As a small business inevitably grows, a business owner will need to enlist help to continue to manage the business and customer interactions. Help can come in many forms – from hiring an employee, to outsourcing the work to a team of people. When enlisting help – it’s important to encourage consistency across all customer service interactions.

Regardless of the size of the business – to ensure a consistent customer service experience and interaction, a business owner should create policies and processes to be followed. The policies and processes, when thoroughly documented, allows the business owner to hand customer service over to a third party, be it an employee or an outsourcer, all while knowing exactly how each customer interaction is going to be handled.

Most businesses will want a process for, at least, the following situations:

  • Order Status
    • When your customer inquires about the delivery of their order – how should a customer service agent handle it?
  • Returns or Exchanges
    • If a customer wants to return or exchange a product, will the customer service agents first attempt retention, or will an RMA number automatically be given without a second thought of the value prop of the item to the customer?
  • Received Damaged
    • When items are received damaged by your customers – should photos be sent of the damage in case a claim is needed? Does the customer just report the damage and wait?
  • Request for discounts/price match
    • If a potential customer wants a discount or a price match to your competitor’s site – what is the process a customer service agent would follow?

In the above example – a customer calls in to request a return of their order. Without a policy or process in place – Sally Sue may assist the customer by providing a RA number and return instructions, while Billy Bob may try to first try a retention tactic to save the sale; this is an inconsistent customer experience. By creating a basic guide for how each situation should be handled – a business owner is ensuring the same positive customer experience, regardless of who assists the customer.

Scott Sanfilippo

Are You Ready to Setup Live Chat on Your Website?

I’m a huge fan of live chat!  When I’m browsing around a website or #eCommerce store and I have a question, I’m more inclined to hit the “chat now” button rather than pick up the phone and make a call.  One of the services we offer in our call center, is outsourced live chat, where our in-house agents answer questions from your customers in real time.  Based on the volume of live chats we handle in a month, I know I’m not the only one who prefers this method of contact.

Our call center sales specialist, Andrew Shecktor is joining us today as a guest blogger and shares information on how your business can benefit by adding live chat to your site.  If you have any questions about this service, feel free to contact Andrew at 1.888.361.9814.

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livechatLive chat services provide customers with the quickest way to get information and support when they need it. Questions are responded to quickly without having to locate a telephone, drill down through the phone tree, and possibly wait on hold and then reach an operator who can help. There are of course times when this is necessary, but a great many issues can be resolved via chat without the need for a phone call.

It is a proven fact that 38% of customers who use live chat make their purchases due to the chat session itself. 44% of online customers say having questions answered by a live person while making an online purchase is one of the most important features of a website. And, 63% of customers are more likely to return to a website that offers live chat. Additionally, 90% of customer’s find live chat helpful because it’s anonymous, convenient, and the response time is almost immediate.*

What does this mean for your business and your customers?

  • Your customers will have the answers they need quickly. This means a happy customer who will continue to buy from you. Your customers will also quickly have all the answers they need to place their order with you.
  • You can get back to your business. Even if you answer your own phones, live chat will reduce the number of phone interactions, thus giving your valuable time back to you, without any sacrifice in customer service.
  • Information is sent flawlessly to customers via text. It is much quicker and more accurate to copy the information for the customer than to try and speak it over a phone line while the customer copies it.
  • Many companies offer live chat services that are billed at a flat rate as opposed to the per minute rate generally charged for phone calls, and a chat session can remain open while working on locating information or researching a customer question.
  • Additionally, many outsourced chat providers can handle multiple customer contacts simultaneously decreasing service wait times, whereas a phone rep can speak to only one customer at a time.
  • A chat operator can direct customers to information on your website, answer questions, and can complete the sale. They can provide information that may not be on your website as well.

I already have a call center that answers my phones. Do I still need live chat?
Chat and phone services go hand-in-hand. Some websites may only need chat support, and some may only need phone support. Any business that is selling services or products or that has a significant visitor volume will benefit from having both chat and phone services. The chat service will cut down on your cost of phone services by reducing the number of inbound calls and by interacting with those Internet savvy customers who seek out the chat option.

In summary, most websites benefit from online chat by providing quick and personal responses to frequently asked questions which will help close sales, and by directing customers to the online resources you have worked so hard to provide them.

* Ref: LogMeIn® 2013 Live Chat Effectiveness Research Report. August 27, 2013

Scott Sanfilippo

Is Your WordPress Blog or Website Up-to-Date?

Behind every good eCommerce store lies a blog, right? Of course! After all, blogging is an important component to an overall search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.

If you’re like most online store owners, you’re probably running your blog on WordPress. With its robust features, an endless supply of plug-ins and ease-of-use, WordPress quickly became the most popular platform for bloggers.

However, with popularity comes attention.

In the case of WordPress, there are always individuals trying to crack the code and break into websites and blogs running on the platform. When vulnerabilities are discovered, the WordPress team quickly reacts by releasing important updates which website owners should deploy immediately in order to protect their site.

Many times, site owners aren’t aware of available updates to both WordPress and any plug-ins that maybe installed. By not keeping your installations up to date, you risk your site being compromised and your data destroyed.

If you run a blog or website on WordPress and it’s been a while since you were in the back-end to update your site, or you didn’t know you even needed to do updates, we’re here to help get you up to date.

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 3.49.29 PM

We’re introducing a new, one-time WordPress security check service where for $149 we will:

  • Create a backup of your site and WordPress database
  • Update your WordPress installation to the current version*
  • Update any installed plug-ins to their current version
  • Activate the WordPress “Automatic Update” feature to ensure ongoing updates are installed to mitigate future security risks
  • Review all WordPress settings to ensure maximum security
  • Make recommendations for improving site security

Once we do the security check and complete the tasks outlined above, we recommend you regularly log into your WordPress administration panel on a regular basis and check for updates. While enabling the “Automatic Update” feature will keep your WordPress installation current, it won’t automatically update any plug-ins you may have installed. If you feel more comfortable having someone else do that for you on an ongoing basis, we can take care of that for you as well.

You’ve worked hard to write content and build your blog or website, don’t let it fall victim to hackers who can destroy your content and put your visitors at risk. Contact us today to learn more about our WordPress security check that can help keep your site safe and virus free.

*WordPress sites that have customizations may cease to work when the update occurs. We are not responsible for the custom functionality and if our assistance is needed to reinstate broken features, those charges will be quotes separately.

Scott Sanfilippo is co-founder of Solid Cactus and runs his own blog on the WordPress platform, which he calls “wonderful and simple to use.” When he’s not blogging about eCommerce or the latest cruise he’s taking, he’s working with our top customers offering advice on how they can grow their business. Got a question for Scott, email him at scotts@solidcactus.com.

Scott Sanfilippo

Frequently Asked Questions About Responsive Design

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 1.46.22 PMSince writing about our new Responsive Design offering for Yahoo! Store and Monster Commerce (Network Solutions) a few weeks ago, I’ve received several emails asking questions about what responsive design is all about.

Today, I’ll answer some of the most frequent ones:

Q: What exactly is responsive design?
A: Simply put, responsive design is a way to program a website or eCommerce store so that it provides the user with an optimum browsing experience on whatever device they are viewing the website on. In other words, the website “responds” to the window size of the computer, tablet or smartphone a web browser is viewing the site on.

Someone viewing your website on a computer will see the full site on their screen. Tablet users, depending on the size of their screen may see the full site, or a site sized down for their screen. Smartphone users will see a version of the site tailored to their phone and presented in a fashion that makes browsing and shopping simple and easy.

Only responsive designed websites provide tablet and mobile users with an experience tailored to their device.

To see how your current website looks to tablet and smartphone users, go to http://responsivedesignsimulator.com/ and type in your URL.

To see how a responsive website looks to those same users, type in this URL into the simulator: http://www.sc-responsive-plus.com/

Big difference right?

That’s why website and online store owners are moving to responsive design!

Q: Why do I need a responsive website?
A: More and more web searches and transactions are taking place on mobile devices than ever before, and that upward trend is going to continue. As we move into the busy holiday season, shoppers are going to be making purchases from their smartphones and tablets in record numbers. If your website isn’t providing them with an optimum browsing experience, they’re going to move on to a store that does.

There are other benefits of going responsive as well. Google has previously recommended that website owners take a serious look at adopting a responsive design and has recently taken a step at giving preference to responsive websites when displaying search results on mobile devices.

If you need further convincing, take a moment to look at your website’s stats in Google Analytics. Look at your mobile traffic numbers and conversion rates. In a random sampling of merchants I have access to, I’ve seen mobile traffic spike over the past year, but mobile conversions are nill. To me, that’s a good indication that people are viewing your non-responsive website on a mobile device and not completing a transaction because it’s just too difficult to do so. All that traffic is going to waste! Imagine the sales you could be losing. Better yet, imagine the sales you could be making if your site is mobile friendly.

Q: I already have a mobile website from (name deleted) and it’s located at (m.domain.com), can I cancel that if I decide to go with a responsive design?
A: Yes! If you adopt a responsive design for your site, you will no longer need to pay a third-party monthly hosting and revenue share fees for the mobile version of your website they are currently providing. Additionally, you will no longer need to update two separate websites!

Q: Will the process for updating my website change if I go with a responsive design?
A: No! You will update your site the same way you do now, nothing changes. There is only one site to update, unlike having a separate mobile site hosted by a third-party. Updating pages, adding products, changing banners, etc. is done the same way you currently do it.

Q: Can I have the same features I currently have on my store if I go with a responsive design?
A: It depends. 99% of the store features from Solid Cactus have been updated to be responsive compatible. There are some older, unsupported features that have been phased out over the years that have not been updated to work properly on responsive designed sites. If you have features on your site that you have purchased from other developers, we cannot guarantee that they will be responsive compatible.

However, don’t fret! When we provide you with a quote for responsive design, we will go over your entire website and let you know what current features are not responsive compatible and recommend options. We have run into very little compatibility issues so far, so this should not be a big concern.

Q: How long does it take to design a responsive store?
A: Programming takes longer than a traditional store and we have to factor in the amount of projects our designers and programmers are currently working on when coming up with a time estimate. However, it is safe to say that it normally takes six to eight weeks from design to programming to final publish.

Q: I got a quote for responsive design and traditional design and responsive was more. Why is that?
A: Building a responsive website is more labor intensive than building a non-responsive one. Building the framework and reinstalling new responsive versions of older store features takes additional time that has to be factored into the price. However, investing in a responsive website now rather than a traditional site will save you money in the long run. You may opt for a traditional site now and in a few months spend money again on a responsive site because your mobile traffic is forcing you in that direction.

If you’re currently paying a third-party for a mobile version of a site, you will no longer need that, so you can take the annual cost of having that site and any revenue share you pay and factor that expense reduction into your decision making process.

There you have it! Some of the most frequent questions I’ve received about responsive design. If I didn’t answer one you’ve been meaning to ask, feel free to drop me an email at scotts@solidcactus.com or call one of our account managers at 1.888.361.9814 and they will be more than happy to help.

Scott Sanfilippo is co-founder of Solid Cactus and has been an eCommerce store owner since 1994. That makes him kinda old, but he knows his way around a Yahoo! Store, responsive or otherwise. Feel free to email him any questions you have about selling online or making the jump to responsive web design.

Scott Sanfilippo

Introducing Responsive Website Design for Your eCommerce Store

Responsive Website Design from Solid CactusAround this time of the year, as an eCommerce merchant, I start thinking about the upcoming holiday season.  While Christmas and Chanukah are probably the last things many of you are thinking about right now, online store owners are starting to plan for the busiest selling season of the year.

In order to capture the most sales possible in the short period that kicks off on Black Friday and ends a few weeks later, store owners have to begin preparing their websites and getting their marketing efforts in check now.

One of the hottest topics being talked about in eCommerce circles at the moment is responsive website design.  Simply put, a “responsive” website adapts to whatever the device the user is viewing the site on – desktop, tablet or smartphone.  The site will scale to fit the screen size making the experience optimum for everyone.

Prior to responsive designed websites, smartphone users had to suffer through viewing full size websites on screens not up to the task. Finger gestures to expand and contract the viewable area led to people just saying, “forget it, I’ll wait until I get home to view this site.”  And we all know that the odds of someone doing that is very slim, as we tend to forget to do things after a few minutes!  (At least I do.)

Then along came mobile optimized websites that would take content from the existing site, reformat it to fit the mobile device and often came with a URL that started off with m. or mobile.  Mobile optimized sites fit the bill fine, but they often required updating the mobile site as well as the main site adding more work onto the already busy store owner’s to-do list.  There also was the very real risk of search engines picking up duplicate content from the mobile site and the desktop site, which if caught, could create serious issues for SEO.

As responsive website design is becoming more mainstream, it’s also starting to become the standard to which websites and eCommerce stores are being built.  It only makes sense to design a website that is easy to use, is customer friendly and adapts to whatever device the visitor is using in order to provide an optimum experience across the board.

Part of preparing for the 4th quarter holiday rush usually involves a redesign to an existing eCommerce store or at least the addition of the latest and greatest conversion boosting store features.  If you’ve been on the fence about a redesign for your online store, now is the time to consider it – and more importantly, consider going responsive.

In addition to providing a seamless shopping experience across all devices, a responsive website has many benefits that a store owner should consider as part of the overall decision making process:

One website to update and maintain.  Many store owners I deal with on an ongoing basis have a mobile site for their store that they are required to maintain separately via a 3rd party provider.  This second store often gets overlooked and I encounter many that aren’t updated, don’t include current promotional messaging/imaging and is there more for just the sake of “being there” rather than being a tool to drive sales.  A responsive website eliminates the hassle of updating a mobile version as it’s one site that fits all!

Cost effective.  While a responsive design may cost a little more upfront than a non-responsive site, you won’t be paying a separate monthly fee, or revenue share for a 3rd party to provide you with a mobile version.  Mobile only sites can cost up to $399, or more, per month on top of what you’re already paying to host your eCommerce store.

Recommended by search engines.  One of the top recommendations of the major search engines to webmasters has been, “go responsive.”  A responsive website served up on a mobile device is going to get more face time in front of mobile searchers than a non-responsive version – and with the way mobile is trending, this is extremely important.  Additionally, a responsive designed website eliminates the chance of being penalized for having duplicate content on a mobile site and a desktop version.  For all SEO purposes, the experts recommend moving forward with a responsive design.

Clean and easy.  Responsive websites offer a fresh design approach that isn’t cluttered, is easy to navigate, and employs features that only work on the device that’s being used to view the website making the customer experience superior to that of non-responsive sites.  The days of “busy” websites with bells and whistles that distract and confuse rather than guide and convert are over.  Clean and easy is in and it’s what your shoppers want when it comes to shopping online.

It’s future proof.  By investing in a responsive website today, you’re on the cutting edge of web design that’s going to be around for a while.  If you’re considering a redesign now and are going to be plopping down a couple thousand dollars on a non-responsive site, chances are you’re going to be spending a couple grand more again next year because you should have gone responsive in the first place.  Responsive design is the way websites are being designed now and moving forward, so why not invest a little more now to have your site built for the future than look back next year at this time and ask yourself why you didn’t go responsive in the first place.

At Solid Cactus, we’ve been furiously working at rolling out a responsive website design solution for our customers for over a year now.  We’ve taken the time to look at what other developers are doing, how big name eCommerce merchants are building their responsive stores, and what the search engines are saying about going responsive.

We’ve taken all we learned and put together what I consider to be the best responsive website design solutions for our Yahoo! Store and Monster Commerce (Network Solutions) eCommerce store owners.

Our responsive website design offerings include a responsive homepage as well as responsive item, section and checkout pages.  We’ve even gone thru and have completed an upgrade of 99% of our existing eCommerce store features, such as Scratch & Save, Click to Enlarge and more, to make them 100% responsive design compatible.

If you’re considering a redesign for the upcoming holiday season and want to discuss moving to a responsive design, give us a call.  We’ll sit down with our programmers and designers to review your existing store and lay out a plan to go responsive and present you with a proposal that we feel will best fit your needs as well as the needs of your customers.

I’m truly excited about our new responsive design offerings as this is the future of web design as we know it!  I’d love for our team to discuss with you the various ways we can make your site responsive in time for the 4th quarter.  Give your account manager a call at 1.888.361.9814 or reach out to me directly at scotts@solidcactus.com and I’ll be happy to help you make the decision that’s right for your business.

After all, we’re in this together!  As your partner in eCommerce success, would you expect anything less?

Scott Sanfilippo is co-founder of Solid Cactus as well as one of the Internet’s first eCommerce stores, TheFerretStore.com. When he’s not writing articles for our blog, he’s checking the Wayback Machine and looking at how many times the web’s most popular websites have been redesigned over the years. We bet he thinks your site is ready for one!