BIRMINGHAM: Every business makes mistakes occasionally but for an e-commerce company these can provide a unique opportunity to build customer relationships, the chairman of Brand Alley believes.

The flash sales retailer already has a head start in that transparency is an essential part of its business model: premium brands reserve stock for Brand Alley which runs sales for its membership base in the UK and only then places orders with brands for the stock it has sold.

“What the customer gets is a great price, but a slightly delayed delivery,” Bruce MacInnes explained to the recent Internet Retailing Expo.

“What’s been critical to us has been to communicate the delivery date to our customers.” (For more, read WARC’s report: Building customer centricity through data, culture, and transparency at Brand Alley.)

That is made clear from the start of their online journey to ensure they are not disappointed at checkout. “And from that point [we stay] in regular contact with customers so that they have regular updates and don’t feel forgotten.”

But when things go wrong MacInnes argued that “this is a particular valuable opportunity for building a relationship with our customers”.

His rationale is that there are few opportunities for direct communication in e-commerce and often the only time a customer has contact with a person at Brand Alley is when something goes wrong – so it’s important that the customer service they receive is the best possible.

“I write, personally, to each customer whom I’ve let down beyond a certain threshold”, MacInnes said.

“Saying sorry well is something that we really care about”. Not least because mistakes have a tendency to be amplified across social media – much more so than when things go well.

“It’s really important to turn those customers around and do everything we can to rebuild trust”, he said.

“We’re very proud of where we’ve got to in terms of that as a business”, he added as he referred to Brand Alley’s high score on online review site Trust Pilot. “That’s taken a lot of hard work”.

Sourced from WARC