March 30, 2010, 12:00 AM

Retailers add social and mobile customer service channels

Customer-generated ratings and reviews is the fastest-growing feature offered by online retailers to help shoppers shop, Forrester Research says in a new study.


The social web is playing a larger role in online customer service, with customer-generated ratings and reviews the fastest growing features offered by online retailers to help shoppers, Forrester Research Inc. says in a new study. Also growing are online community forums and alerts issued through Twitter and SMS and other forms of mobile messaging.

The study, which is based on a survey of 291 online retailers in the fourth quarter of 2009, found that 54% of web merchants currently offer online customer ratings and reviews, and that 30% plan to offer it this year.

That will put customer ratings and reviews among the most common forms of customer service, which is still dominated by e-mail followed by online order tracking and live telephone support from customer contact center agents, the study says. The study, “Retailers Plan to Expand Online Customer Service Channels in 2010,” was authored by Forrester analyst Diane Clarkson with input from other Forrester analysts.

Following are online customer service features and channels cited in the Forrester study; figures show the percentages of retailers who currently support them followed by the percent who plan to add them this year:

Customer ratings or reviews, 54%, 30%
Online community or forum, 23%, 27%
Customer support through Twitter, 16%, 21%

Mobile channel (e.g., alerts via SMS messages), 4%, 25%

Self help:
Order tracking, 83%, 9%
Frequently asked questions (FAQs), 75%, 13%
Online help section, 70%, 12%
Single search box integrating site search and self-service, 42%, 13%
Store item availability, 23%, 12%
Dedicated search box for customer service/support content, 22%, 16%
IVR telephone customer support, 10%, 11%
Automated chat or virtual agent, 5%, 16%

Live help:
Email, 96%, 1%
Live telephone customer support, 82%, 7%
Live reactive IM or click to chat, 28%, 26%
Click-to-call or -callback service, 6%, 22%
Live proactive IM or click-to-chat, 5%, 21%


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