By most accounts online holiday sales were great, but a couple of recent surveys report that customer service online could have been better. A recent Small Business Computing article noted the findings of two surveys, the e-tail group's eighth Annual Mystery Shopping Study and ForSee's Top 40 Online Retail Satisfaction Index, which revealed some pretty unsatisfying customer service.

The e-tailing group noted a drop in personalization and shipment tracking since 2004. It also found that, based on its criteria, some of which included offering a toll-free number, keyword search, and answering e-mail questions within 25 hours, that the 100 sites it mystery shopped offered slightly worse service than they did last year. ForSee discovered that even though revenue was up, customer satisfaction dropped 4% from spring 2005 to the 2005 holiday season.

The holidays are a huge opportunity for online retailers to convert one-time gift buyers into loyal customers, but poor customer satisfaction is sure to drive them away -- and make sure they don't come back. Features such as easy-to-find contact information and 800 numbers, simple check out, and keyword search can simplify a customer's experience. On the more sophisticated end, businesses can offer live chat software to ensure customers are taken care. Whatever the strategy, the old adage still goes: The customer is king. And retailers need to remember to treat him like royalty.