Customer Service and Online Success

Why is Customer Service So Essential to Online Success?

Linda is using the Internet to shop for an umbrella for her father, a really nice one to replace one that he’s had for years. She really likes the look of one that she finds on a designer umbrella site; it’s sleek, compact, and has great reviews. However, she is specifically concerned about durability and doesn’t see that mentioned in the customer comments.

 

Linda wants to speak directly with support. She goes to the umbrella designer site’s contact page, and she doesn’t see an obvious way to get help. All she finds is the corporate office number. It appears the only way to contact the company for help with an ordering issue is through their main office during normal business hours.

 

Linda leaves the site, and she never returns.

 

How quickly do customers expect support to respond?

 

Are your customers like Linda?

 

71% of online shoppers expect to be able to access support within 5 minutes, while 31% expect to get help immediately. When support does not arrive within the expected period of time, 48% say that they would then leave the site. Those figures are according to the LivePerson Connecting with Customers Report, a poll of 5700 consumers from the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Australia to gauge their online expectations. (The poll was conducted by UK market researcher Loudhouse, as commissioned by LivePerson.)

 

Why do shoppers abandon a site?

 

A general topic of exploration in the study was reasons that shopping cart abandonment occurs. Unlike brick-and-mortar shoppers, online users know that they have other options literally at their fingertips – so if they can’t get the information that makes them confident with the purchase, they will go elsewhere. However, the good news is that you can keep more of these customers on your site through strong support – via phone, email, helpdesks, live chat, and even content such as your blog or FAQ pages.

 

Support isn’t the only reason you experience abandonment, though. Here are a few reasons that consumers said they commonly abandon online purchases:

 

  • Exorbitant shipping costs – 70%
  • Not enough details on the product, service, or shipping – 56%
  • Unable to find the answer to a question – 37%
  • Inability to find support on the site – 30%.

 

Notice how everything but shipping costs has to do with needing help or information.

 

What are other customer support needs?

 

5 out of 6 poll respondents (83%) said that they need support when shopping online; that rate increased to 90% among a population of shoppers LivePerson categorized as inexperienced, or “dependent.”

 

Also, consumers do not have very much patience when it comes to being able to get help. Fully half of consumers (51%) said that they would only try to access support once if they needed assistance before buying something online. On the other hand, after completing an order, consumers are likelier to make repeated attempts to get support; 76% say they try to get their questions answered at least twice post-purchase.

 

Brick-and-Mortar vs. eCommerce

 

The customer service experience that people get online and in a physical store is of course very different (remote communication vs. face-to-face interaction). Of course people enjoy the convenience of online shopping, but they did rate in-store service better in this survey: 77% reported general satisfaction with in-store assistance, while 67% reported that same satisfaction on the web.

 

To the consumers surveyed, their three key concerns with customer service were that their problem gets resolved quickly (82%), that they only have to contact the company once (56%), and that the representative who helped them was pleasant (45%).

 

How do customers want to get their questions answered?

 

People aren’t all created alike, so people will turn to different avenues to get their questions answered. However, some of those options will get used more than others. The top three responses from the survey all had to do with human interaction of some form: phone was first with 61%, just ahead of email at 60% and live chat at 57%. Beyond those channels, some of the other means to get help included content, both brand-created and user-generated: FAQ came in at 51%, with customer forums at 34% and recorded video tips at 17%.

 

What is the impact of reviews on consumers?

 

Linda, now back looking for an umbrella, is checking reviews; and, especially now that she just had an issue finding support, she is particularly focused on that element. Now she sees that the new designer she’s checking has 24/7 support. The only prominent complaints Linda sees are from customers who are writing in all-caps or who seem to have unreasonable expectations. In other words, things look good, and she proceeds to purchase her umbrella through that second designer.

 

It’s not all that surprising that Linda carefully checked reviews, or that she would see mentions of support in that context. After all, a study of user data performed by Moz found that an incredible two-thirds (67.7%) of Internet shoppers are impacted by what they read in reviews. For that study, Moz looked at 1000 respondents via Google Consumer Surveys, asking them (in part) how important reviews were in their decision-making process when they purchased an item online. The degree to which shoppers see reviews as influencing their decisions varies, but 54.7% told the researchers that what they read from other shoppers was at least “fairly” important in their decisions of what to buy.

 

How does customer service become a marketing tool?

 

There’s sometimes excessive demarcation between different departments, roles, or tasks within companies, when often an integrated approach is best. Companies are increasingly realizing the role that strong customer service can play in their marketing plan. Unsurprisingly, 7 out of 10 US consumers say that they are likelier to increase what they spend with brands when they experience high-quality customer service, according to a 2011 American Express Survey.

 

Since shoppers value customer service so much, it makes sense that they will talk to others about it, whether in person or through online reviews. Signs.com is a company that has seen the positive impact of an investment in customer service on reviews (as well as retention and referrals).

 

COO Nelson James told Business.com in February that the company had implemented a customer-service-centered marketing strategy. James said the company uses it as a key differentiator; he believes it is the primary retention tool the company has.

 

This line from James is especially compelling in terms of the connection between customer service and reviews: “The majority of our customer reviews are based on how our customers are treated by our customer service team.” Reviews certainly give customers more confidence, as seen in the above discussion on their impact.

 

Looking at marketing and customer service as pieces of the same dual effort can have other benefits as well. You can improve internal communication and build more unified messaging company-wide. When these two fields are brought together more closely, the customer service team can be aware of any content or promotional discounts that might be of use to improve the customer experience. In this way, the way that you shape your marketing plan will foster interdepartmental collaboration.

 

Another big benefit of unifying your customer service and marketing efforts is that you deliver better answers through social media – since your social content managers don’t always have the immediate answers.

 

As you can see, customer service isn’t just important in its own right but can help to enhance your company in other ways as well.

 

*****

 

Setting up strong customer service or support is invaluable to online business, as described above. Do you want to really make an impression? Offer a support office that is both based in the United States and active at all times, 24/7/365; that’s what we do at KnownHost. Read our customer reviews.

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