MSN Announces Plans for MSN eShop Return Center for Consumers

REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 3, 2000 — The jeans you ordered online arrive two weeks late. The CD never arrives. Nobody told you there was a problem with your order, and there’s no phone number to call, just an address on the Web site. Perplexed, you ask yourself,
“Where is the convenience and efficiency of Internet shopping?”
It’s a question left unanswered at many Internet shopping sites, as customers too often find themselves with no place to turn once money has changed hands. A study by The Boston Consulting Group recently found that 28 percent of shoppers frustrated with a purchase on an e-commerce site stopped shopping at that particular site and six percent stopped shopping online altogether.

MSN is taking steps to make sure consumers get the online shopping experience they’re looking for, both on its MSN eShop site and when shopping at eShop merchants throughout the MSN network. Today, MSN announced plans for a Return Center, where people who shop on MSN can find concise, quick and easy explanations of each merchant’s return policy. This reinforces the MSN Shopping Pledge, MSN’s continued commitment to clarity in communicating security and privacy guidelines, along with providing consumers a premier shopping experience.

The Return Center, to be integrated into MSN eShop within the next month, is designed to help simplify the return process for online shoppers. Shoppers will be able to find the return policies of each MSN eShop merchant, clearly identified along with other information and resources that will help make returning merchandise easier. As the holiday season approaches, consumers will have access to updates in return policies from one single location.

The MSN Shopping Pledge emphasizes quality customer service by MSN and its trusted merchants. Purchases, shipping and special orders are ultimately handled by individual MSN eShop merchants. To provide consumers with the most information, MSN lists all of the merchants’ phone numbers and contact information, making it easy for online shoppers to address any concern with their purchases. In addition, MSN has its own Customer Service center, where shoppers can let MSN know about any problems or issues they encounter while shopping on MSN. The Shopping Pledge brings together all the information consumers want to know for an informed online shopping experience.

However, customer satisfaction isn’t just about customer service. MSN requires that merchants offer secure transaction capabilities to protect shoppers’ personal information, and that they clearly post privacy policies on their Web sites for consumers to access easily. MSN also complies with the federal Fair Credit Billing Act, which states thatshoppers can’t be held liable for more than $50 of unauthorized charges on their credit card bill. Furthermore, all major credit card issuers currently have no-risk policies when using credit cards online. Under the policy, consumers are not liable for charges should their credit card information be misused.

MSN sees its Shopping Pledge as an important component in its ongoing effort to protect consumers’ security and privacy, and to increase their level of satisfaction with online shopping.
“We’ve noticed that in addition to security and privacy, consumers see service as a top priority when choosing a shopping destination on the Web,”
said Sarah Lefko, product manager for MSN.
“The Shopping Pledge is a way for us to educate consumers about the issues they care about most: safety, privacy and customer service. Consumers are protected in a number of ways that aren’t widely known. In addition, we have made service a priority for eShop, and we believe our merchants deliver great customer service already. This is a way of expressing our own commitment to meeting our users’ service and privacy needs.”

“The MSN Shopping Pledge underscores not only MSN’s commitment to customer service and privacy, but its merchants’ as well,”
said Sally McKenzie, divisional vice president of Interactive Media Operations for Eddie Bauer.
“Eddie Bauer has an 80-year history of providing unsurpassed service to our customers. The more visual and noticeable we make such pledges, the more we can ensure our customers are getting the service they want, deserve and expect.”

Research indicates that as the Internet retail market matures, customer service is shifting to the forefront of key reasons why people shop — or don’t shop — at a particular Web site. A Jupiter Communications survey found that while 72 percent of online buyers said that customer service is a critical factor in their online shopping satisfaction, only 41 percent indicated that they’re actually satisfied with the level of service they’ve received.

Further research indicates that customer service has become a higher priority of both merchants and their customers in recent months. Forrester Research studies indicate that 66 percent of
“shopping carts”
are abandoned on Web sites because of service-related problems. DataMonitor estimates that online retailers lost more than $6.1 billion in sales last year by failing to provide sufficient customer service.

“To us and to our merchants, this is an outward expression of the individual commitments we all have to a high level of service and responsiveness to our users,”
said Lefko.
“We feel this just makes a strong statement to consumers that we’re going to continue to provide that service and look for ways to enhance that statement in the future.”

The MSN Customer Service Pledge can be found at .

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