New study about online retailing finds Chat & self service are top for good customer experiences

A new study, commissioned by RightNow Technologies and conducted by Loudhouse Research, to investigate online shoppers attitudes towards the technology used for customer care, found that consumers are ditching traditional methods of communication with contact centre agents, such as phone and email in favour of self-service and Chat.

Changes in consumer expectations: The study found that when it comes to making online purchases, half of consumers prefer to go it alone, finding information on products or services via the retailers website and support pages. Preferred communication methods for finding information about a retailers products or services are:

Online self serve (50%)

Email customer services (19%)

Call customer services (18%)

Chat impact on the bottom line: Nevertheless, the role of the retail customer service agent is not defunct. The survey found that online consumers also enjoy using Chat. In fact, more than 64% of consumers who have engaged with an agent through a Chat session said they would rather use this channel than speak with an agent on the phone. 69% said they would prefer to use Chat than email.

Most importantly, nearly three quarters (74%) of consumers stated that Chat has a positive impact on their purchase decision, with a fifth making a purchase straight away while a quarter of consumers said they purchased later on.

Multi-Channel Customer Experience: Looking at consumer perceptions about retailers multi-channel customer care, the study found, while consumers are generally happy with the interaction channels retailers provide for service and support, such as chat, email, phone and web, more than half feel that improvement needs to be made to the consistency of information provided across those channels. The survey found that where consumers have contacted a retailer via a number of channels about the same query, only 25% had received consistent responses.

Viral Nature of Bad Customer Experiences: With the advent of sites like Twitter and YouTube, the survey found that getting the multi-channel customer experience right is more important than ever before. Following a bad customer experience with a retailer, half of online shoppers feel duty-bound to warn other about the pitfalls of doing business with that retailer. 16% stated they communicate negative experiences specifically to stop other people buying from that particular company. Meanwhile, 30% want to vent disappointment at how theyve been treated.

The study found that where negative consumer commentary ends up is becoming widespread and harder to control. While word-of-mouth communication is still the most obvious channel of communicating frustration, a further;

15% go directly to retailers websites to post a comment, and

More than 14% of online shoppers now blog, micro-blog, post videos or join online groups that are opposed to the company

Social Web Advantages: While the social web is a growing channel for communicating poor customer experiences, the survey also found that it offers retailers an opportunity to interact directly with consumers on a one-to-one basis. Far from being regarded as a Big Brother tactic, 78% of online shoppers said; yes, organisations should listen to what customers say about their products and services on social networking sites and follow up with those people. In fact, 60% said its entirely acceptable for retailers to monitor consumer comments on social networking sites and then make suggestions about relevant products or services

Service as Sales: The study uncovered more good news for those retailers focused on using service departments to drive revenue. It found consumers open to retail customer care agents suggesting relevant products and services for purchase following email, chat or phone interactions.

More than 60% of online shoppers will accept suggestion about relevant products of services during an email exchange,

54% will do so during a phone session, and

53% said Chat could also be used for suggestions

Joe Brown, General Manager at RightNow comments, As retailers gear-up for Christmas this study provides real food for thought. Consumers are calling the changes and its their customer care preferences that should be dictating where retailers focus resources. Providing the service consumers expect, across the channels they want to use will build trust and advocacy get that right and you win the right to make recommendations about other items that might be of interest. Get it wrong, and not only do consumers tell everyone they know about their poor experiences but theyll also post it for all eternity on the internet.

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