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Are There Any Hidden Charges?

     A while ago, there were junk-mail ads offering products with incredible prices. They also, however, charged incredible shipping and handling fees. So it turns out those were actually bad deals. How about your site? Are you hiding any fees? Products or services are well presented on most web sites, but not all charges are presented well. This prevents potential sales from closing.

Don't Give Customers a Surprise

     Here's a simple example. A potential customer, Mr. Smith, visits your web site and picks a product. Your site instructs him to "proceed to checkout" when he's made his choices. He types in his name and shipping information, and the total charges appear on the screen. Now, suddenly, extra shipping and handling charges appear. Those charges are reasonable, but he wasn't aware of them when he began the checkout process. It's a total surprise. Customers don't like this type of surprise!

Don't Hide Extra Charges

     Okay, so maybe today's Internet shoppers are expecting shipping charges. Now your customer is trying to find out what those shipping charges will be. A good way to annoy a shopper is to make it more difficult to find out about shipping charges than it is to choose a product from the thousands of products on the same web site. After looking around a while, they may finally figure out that the only way to determine the charges is to go though the checkout process. Just before giving his credit card number, Mr. Smith (from the example above) will finally view the shipping charges. You could have saved him a lot of time and aggravation by telling him this in the beginning. Of course it could be even worse. You could ask for his credit card number before showing total charges. But surely you're aware that, in this security-conscious era, no one will give out credit information until the total charges are revealed, right?

How to Make Extra Fees Acceptable

     While this is just about shipping charges, just one simple example, there can be lots of hidden charges that won't show up until the last minute. If this happens, even though those charges are reasonable, your customer won't be happy with them. People accept things more easily if they are expecting them. For example, if customers are aware that there will be shipping charges and are told about those charges properly, they will accept the charges more easily. Also, they will feel comfortable with the checkout process. Customers will click the final "order" button more willingly.

     You can't make money just showing people your products or services. You have to ask them to give you their money. But here's the problem: they won't give you that money unless they trust you. One way to earn that trust is to make all charges easy to find . . . just as easy as finding a product. As it gets harder to find out about extra charges, people become more resistant to them. The sooner your customers know about extra charges, the better they will feel about them. Feeling better means a better shopping experience, and a better shopping experience encourages return visits.

© January, 2002