The E-commerce, Customer Service Conundrum

By Molly MacKay Zacker, MacKay & Company

Second only to truck parts, I am obsessed with shoes. During a recent trip to Rochester, Minn., I had the pleasure of shopping at a small, somewhat specialized, non-chain shoe shop.

During my second visit, I noticed a small sign at the cashier’s area that stated, “Sorry, shopping online through our website is no longer available.”

When paying for my purchase, I asked the cashier, “Why are you closing your online store?” to which he responded, “Shopping online for our products takes away one of our key distinctions, one of our principles. We specialize in customer service, asking questions to solve problems, ensuring that we are addressing all issues. Online sales created more returns than actual sales and satisfied customers. The website hurt our relationships with our customers.”

In MacKay & Company’s e-commerce benchmark study conducted last year, online purchases of medium- and heavy-duty truck parts totaled 12 percent of all purchases, with forecast growth of 15 percent in three years. Some of this growth will occur simply due to the growth in the market, but some will be attributed to true e-commerce channel growth. What factors might influence this trend in the future?