As it appeared in the Daily Nation of November 25th 2014
I have made online purchases for the last 14 years. My first experience was at amazon.com. At the time, it claimed to be “the world’s largest bookstore” and Barnes and Noble took them to court. I trust it possibly was because over 80% of my hard copy books and 100% of my e-books are from amazon.com. In the current issue of the Harvard Business Review Jeff Bezzo the Amazon.com CEO tops the list of Best-Performing CEOs. In addition, the online store is number 2 on the 2014 Fortune list of most admired companies and has taken the lead for the last 5 years in the Customer Service Hall of Fame.
Online shopping though goes beyond Amazon.com. Just recently alibaba.com a company that plans to last at least 102years as stipulated it its vision has made headlines. Other online stores that have left a mark are ebay.com and zappos.com. Many have come and gone and others are being set up today. Closer home is mamamikes with its trademark Mbuzi delivery. Currently, there is prolific growth of online stores in Kenya and leading supermarkets are also opening up online stores. As I reviewed the numerous online stores in the past few weeks, I wondered if I could trust all of them as much as I trust Amazon.com.
Would you shop from a local online store? A few years ago many would have been hesitant. However, today I believe Kenyans are willing to give it a trial. As the numbers continues to grow there is no doubt that only those that build a reputation of a great shopping experience will survive. According to the 2014 Customer Service Hall of Fame survey results amazon.com not only received by far the highest percentage of “excellent” responses but also received the smallest number of negative ratings compared to all sorts of businesses. The online store has keenly focused on the customer experience. Is there something that our local online stores can learn from Amazon.com?
Most of the local online stores I have visited indicate opening hours as 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday and on Saturday 8am to 1pm. An online store is open 24hours and so should be its support services such as telephone, email, chat etc. In one of the stores, I made a call back request and 5 days after I have not been contacted. I also sent an online request to several and I was impressed that Jumia and Rupu track customer queries and respond; a few others are yet to respond. What also caught my attention were the 5-7days return policies with strict conditions such as the item must be in a saleable condition. One store responded to my query saying item returned must go through a quality check before an exchange is made. Most successful stores have kept their return and refund policies simple and clear. Leading online stores are also reliable in their deliveries, know their customers by keeping track of their purchase history, keep them informed and provide them with product reviews. In addition, they provide payment options and secure their customers’ information.
I believe that online stores in Kenya have a bright future if they put the customer experience at the centre of their existence, build trust and create loyal customers.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy