May 15, 2001, 12:00 AM

Customer service on b2b sites has a long way to go, says a new survey

Almost all business users that have tried to buy goods or services on the web have encountered problems that caused them to abandon their transactions, reports a new survey by Critical Research, commissioned by vendor Motive Communications.

Almost all business users that have tried to buy goods or services on the web have encountered problems that caused them to abandon their transactions, reports a survey from Critical Research, commissioned by service software vendor Motive Communications. The survey of 200 U.S. online businesses found that 95% had abandoned web sites during transactions due to a range of problems, from difficulty in locating information or completing transactions, to untimely and inaccurate information in response to service requests. Furthermore, businesses reported that current electronic service options, such as email and the telephone, were inadequate in helping complete online transactions.

Other findings: --93% of users said they regularly had problems conducting business online. Trouble spots included signing up for a service (85%), researching a product (81%) and executing transactions (75%). However, current modes of online assistance were generally dissatisfying, providing help in solving problems for only 36% of those surveyed. For example, only 15% of those seeking assistance by e-mail, 22% using the phone and 32% using chat/instant messaging found their service experiences satisfactory. --Business users are also growing increasingly frustrated with the amount of time it takes to answer a question or solve a problem and the frequent amounts of inaccurate information they receive. 90% said responses to queries were unacceptably slow, and 81% said they had received inaccurate information when they finally received a response.

"When a customer walks into an bank or office supplies store, the salespeople are trained to make the whole experience as smooth as possible," said Anna Clepper, Motive`s vice president of marketing. "Companies clearly haven`t been able to replicate this level of service on the Internet, even though the online customer is just as important and the cost of switching to another vendor is much lower on the Internet. The winners in e-business will be those companies that wake up to this disparity and center their business models on the online service experience. With online service at such a low point, companies have a tremendous opportunity to differentiate based on service and keep those customer dollars from going elsewhere."

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