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Pitfalls to Building Customer Loyalty Online

Tips on what to avoid when using the web to build customer loyalty Online.

How important are loyal customers? According to a survey conducted by the research firm Web Side Story Inc., visitors who return to a site are eight times more likely to make an online purchase. To keep visitors returning to your site be sure to avoid these common customer service pitfalls.

Making your site difficult to navigate. Simple and user-friendly website navigation is like signage in a retail store. Whether in the real world or online, customers want to find products easily. Make sure your site is like a well designed and laid out store. Online visitors should be able to see at a glance where they are at all times, how to get to the other pages on the site, and how to return to the home page. Keep the site navigation bar simple, and keep it in the same spot on every page.

Having too many bells and whistles. If your site has flashing icons, pop-up windows, singing banners and ads, get rid of them. These elements distract customers and divert their attention away from your content. Over time your customers will become annoyed and overwhelmed with the flashing announcements - and they will avoid visiting the site and making purchases.

Keeping outdated information. Update your site frequently with new products information, pricing, on-going sales. If your products are no longer available, out-of-stock, or on backorder, post a note underneath the image. If possible give a time frame of when the product will be available. The last thing customers want is to reach the checkout page to find out that the item they wanted is no longer available.

Making promises you won't honor. Nothing can be more aggravating to a customer when they learn that the guarantee for free shipping and/or returns was just "lip service." Provide your customers with easy return instructions at the check out page. If free shipping is included for a certain dollar amount, state it up front.

And last, but not least ... Hiding your contact information. Keep in mind, some customers still want that personal touch and will leave when they can't find a way to contact you. Differentiate yourself from other websites by offering a way for customers to reach a real person either by phone, email, or live chat.

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