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The company wants to improve its reputation for customer service as it prepares to offer stock to the public.

Chastened by disgruntled customers and preparing to file for an initial public offering, is making itself over in an attempt to become more palatable to both shoppers and investors.

Today, opened a music store, bringing to six the number of stores it operates online: Buycomp, Buysoft, Buybooks, Buygames, Buyvideos, and Buymusic. The new store brings more directly into competition with leading retailer, but is also hoping to chip away at Amazon's lead in another area: customer service.

Since it launched a little more than a year ago, has distinguished itself with aggressively low prices and heavy advertising to lure customers. Those tactics made a leading name in online retail, but its reputation has been tarnished by complaints that it does not always honor the low prices it advertises. is now trying to spin itself in a more positive light. In addition to the music store, has redesigned its Web site to emphasize customer service. Its home page now contains prominent links to order tracking and a service agreement, and the company has discontinued its practice of posting charges to the customer credit cards as soon as an order is received. Instead, it will now wait until the order is shipped to post the charge.

Other customer service improvements include "expanded email communication to better inform the customer of their order status," the company said in a statement issued today. In a February episode in which accepted orders for a computer monitor that was mistakenly listed hundreds of dollars below the correct price, customers complained that automated email responses were confusing and contradicted the statements of company representatives reached by phone. said it is also adding live chat with customer service representatives.

The new policies are designed to project a new, but the company has not backed away from its low-price lure. Starting today, the company has pledged to sell any product at 10 percent below the price of its top three online competitors, and has included a search engine to help the shopper compare prices.

Giving customers the ability to compare prices could boost's credibility, according to James McQuivey, but he doesn't believe the company can offer both the lowest prices and responsive customer service in the long run.

"When you operate on a zero margin your customer service will suffer," said McQuivey. "You can't have both."

The competitors that has targeted vary from market to market. They include, CDW, NECX,, and eToys, but the name that appears most frequently is has made no secret of its ambition to be a major shopping destination on the Internet, something that Amazon has also set out to do. Last November, chief executive Scott Blum told CNET, "We are truly the Amazon of the computer marketplace today," but in the music, book, and video markets, the company is now taking on Amazon directly.

Chris Vroom, an analyst with Thomas Weisel Partners, believes the changes has made are intelligent but won't be enough to dislodge Amazon. "is going to be an important factor in the e-tailing world, but it's not going to displace other leaders on the basis of price alone," he said. executives won't comment--they have been in a self-imposed quiet period for about a month while the company shops itself around to investment bankers for the chance to take the company public (it has not yet filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO). As a private company, has watched as Amazon and others have raised billions of dollars in the public markets. With investors' enthusiasm for Net stocks continuing, a IPO is likely to be a hot prospect.

But what appears to want most is Amazon's reputation for customer service. may be an aggressive competitor, but it was unprepared for the consumer backlash unleashed by the monitor price mixup in February. Although rushed to add a clause about typographical errors in its service agreement, it was unable to prevent disgruntled customers from creating Web sites and discussing the company's policies at length on message boards. Finally, agreed to fulfill more than 140 orders for the monitor at the incorrect price, but some who did not receive the monitor have filed suit against the company.

Dispelling the notion that's customer service is inferior is the only way for the company to build loyalty among shoppers who are just a click away from the competition, according to Dan Miller, vice president at e-commerce consultancy The Kelsey Group.

"I don't think the challenge is to prove that you can sell products below cost," Miller said. "The challenge is to engage customers and try to anticipate their needs, preferences and wants."