Starting an E-Biz – Part 4: Payment and Customer Service

As promised, I will continue with my series of How To Start Your Own E-Business, for all you eager business people out there!
Please read my previous chapters: Part 1 – Planning, Part 2 – Domains and Hosting and Part 3 – Site Design.

In this article I will focus on the various payment methods that a customer can use in order to bring the most profit and revenue out of your site. I will also be looking at how your relationship with customers can affect your sales figures.

Firstly, what methods of payment are there? Like any businesses you can accept cheques, postal orders, banker’s drafts or even cash if you’re a bit risky, but if you want to get anywhere with your online enterprise, you need to be able to accept online payments. It has been proven that over 90% of people paying over the net use credit cards, so you must be able to accept credit card payments on your site.

How can I do that you may ask? Well, there are a number of options. Your local bank will be able to set up a merchant account for you, but normally they require a hefty safety deposit, and their rates per transaction are not that great. Let’s say they charge you 5% per transaction. Then if you have a customer that pays £100 for an item then you will receive £95, and the bank will get £5 of that money. There are also number of online payment services, some of which are cheap and simple, others which are more expensive but a lot more advanced.

For me, Paypal has always been the easiest to use and to setup. In order to start taking payments with Paypal, you will need to register, and altogether the signup process takes about 5-6 days. After that you’re free to easily add html code to your site. Paypal now has a shopping basket feature so that people can “Add To Cart” and “Checkout” just like in those sites which seem really professional. In terms of fees, the starting rate is £0.20 plus 3.9% per transaction, which for a third party account provider, is a very reasonable rate. Customers too can pay with credit card, debit card, or an e-cheque, which takes money from their account. Security-wise, Paypal is one of the safest online payment services around, so there are no problems there.
I would recommend Paypal to any new E-Business, however,
if you get a lot of sales, I would recommend you look into a more professional solution, as I find that Paypal can scare some customers away due to its eBayish nature!

Once you have set up your Add to Cart buttons and Shopping Basket, which are all fully customisable then hopefully, you will start to see some sales. Note that people do not just turn up at your site just like that. Think of it in this way, having an online shop, is like having a retail store in the middle of the desert, unless people know you’re out there, you’ll find that you get few visitors, and even fewer sales. This is where marketing comes in, but we’ll talk more about that in the next issue.

Customer service is a phrase that we hear a lot nowadays, especially since most of the world is turning to an online solution for their businesses. Without politeness and professionalism, you may not be able to build a very good reputation, and it is reputation that will result in repeat sales and the spreading of the word about your site by mouth.
Here are a few pointers:

  • Get a freephone / tollfree number: people hate paying for calls, they would much rather move to a fellow competitors site.
  • Respond to your emails quickly: again, customers are not prepared to wait more than 24 hours for a reply from the vendor, so don’t miss out on a sales opportunity.
  • Fast and reliable shipping: there is nothing more than a lost item in the post, so make sure this doesn’t happen to you, unless you want a ton of complaints!
  • Finally, make sure that your item is in stock: this only becomes a problem if you are dealing with physical items.

There are many more factors which can encourage or put off a buyer, so get in touch with a buyer and see what they think of your site, or get in touch with me, and I will happily review your new site. Stay tuned for the next in the series, and how you can market your business to success!

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