What are consumers saying about the web? A recent Harris Interactive survey highlights trends in online transactions and the opportunities for companies that focus on improving these online customer experiences. It was sponsored by Tealeaf. The survey focused on consumer transactions on shopping, banking, travel and insurance websites. It was conducted in early August 2008 with over two thousand participants.
The headlines are:
First, for the fourth consecutive year, nearly 9 out of 10 (87%) online adults who have conducted an online transaction in the past year have experienced problems. Those who experience problems conducting online transactions also reported feeling disappointed (55%), angry (41%), and confused (23%). I usually feel all of the above. Second, 41% of online adults who experience transaction problems would switch to a competitor or abandon a transaction entirely. This represents a potential 57 billion dollars (US) impact for shopping sites alone. Third, four in five online adults who experience problems (84%) share their experiences with others -- both online and offline. This is certainly consistent with all the customer service work I used to do. It is perhaps even higher.
I fall into all three of these above groups. Forrester found compatible results in their survey “Obstacles to Customer Experience Success, 2008,” where 91% of business decision-makers said customer experience is either very important or critical to their 2008 efforts. We have high expectations with web sites ─ more than four in five (84%) online adults feel there is no reason why an online transaction can’t be completed on the first try -- but most sites are not meeting those expectations.
At the same time there is an increasing preference to do things online -- 84% of all adults who go online have conducted an online transaction in the past year and more than one-third (35%) generally prefer to conduct business online, according to the survey. I imagine that this is especially true for some industries where there are extra charges to do things with a person. Further, 22% of online adults who have conducted an online transaction in the past year expect even better customer service online than when shopping in-person. Two-thirds (64%) expect the same level of customer service online as they are accustomed to receiving in-person at a store. Somehow, we think machines are more accurate than people. However, people who are around software a lot perhaps know better. I am both amazed and yet not surprised that people still have such difficulty with online transactions. Personally, I am always amazed and pleased when it works. I guess my expectations are lower through experience.
Even when a site has call center backup, 45% of online adults who have experienced bad customer service from a company’s call center when calling about website problems subsequently stopped doing
business with the company entirely. As I mentioned above, (84%) share their bad experiences with others and more than half (53%) tell their friends and family specifically in order to discourage them from using that website or doing business with that company.
I found the channels of bad news interesting as 82% of online adults who share their experiences with others do so using non-online modes of communication such as:
- In-person (74%) and
- Phone conversations (50%) with friends and family.
On the other hand, 58% use online channels to share complaints or reviews such as:
- On the company’s website (39%);
- In an email to friends and family (23%);
- On a ratings and reviews websites (16%);
- On an online message board (8%); and,
- On a blog and/or social network (7%).
While non-online modes of communication are more popular, they may reach a more limited audience. It is likely that online channels actually have a broader reach since a web site posting or email can be shared with thousands. Twitter is being used more and more for this and firms like Comcast are monitoring this channel for cusomter complaints. This is one reason that firms set up their own social networking sites to try to monitor, understand, and work to address customer concerns (see my recent posts - Best Practices for Business Social Networking Sites from Dotser.)
Another option is to continuously monitor and improve the firm’s online customer experience. This is treating the problem at the source. Of course, you would also want to do this monitoring on a social networking site. Site monitoring can drive down the bad experiences in the first place and stop the cycle of complaints. Tealeaf provides a suite of products for this purpose that I covered on the AppGap – see Tealeaf Brings Visibility to Online Customer Experiences.