January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Another survey underlines the importance of customer service

Timely service and access to product information are key drivers in consumers' online purchase decisions and will play a large part in determining who succeeds and who fails this holiday shopping season, says a new survey by Primus, a provider of eCRM software. In early August, Primus sponsored a national random telephone survey among 502 adults (261 female and 241 male), 18 and older who have Internet access. The survey reveals that while a majority of online consumers agree that it is much more convenient to buy things online than over the phone, there is room for improvement in meeting their expectations of customer service on the Internet. Findings suggests that online consumers are interested in knowing more about products and 68% "strongly" or "somewhat" agree that the inability to ask specific questions makes shopping online difficult. The survey also indicates that wanting to look at or try out a product is the biggest reason consumers do not buy online. Although many consumers believe that the Internet has become more user friendly in the past year, 53% would rather shop at a retail store because of inadequate online customer service. More consumers research products and make price comparisons online than actually purchase products via the Internet. These shoppers define ideal customer service according to priorities like timely response (45%), informative (22%), communication with real person (17%), and 24x7 availability (14%). "E-businesses must move beyond simple e-commerce systems to a full-scale eCRM system if they want to win new customers and retain existing ones," said Norman Guadagno, vice president of worldwide marketing at Primus, in a statement that accompanied release of the results. "Consumers are in the driver's seat this holiday season and this research confirms that they demand information, rapid response to questions and personalized assistance via multiple channels."

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