February 18, 2011, 1:53 PM

Want repeat customers? Use online tools

A global survey finds that consumers like customer service features many e-retailers employ.

Lead Photo

Nearly two-thirds of consumers stopped doing business last year with retailers, mobile phone companies, airlines and other organizations because of lousy customer service, according to a global study conducted by consulting firm Accenture. The survey of more than 5,800 consumers in 17 countries delved into their behavior and motivations.

The survey covered 10 industries, including retail, banks, mobile phone providers and airlines. Among the 10 categories, retailers fared the worst. 26% of total respondents said they switched retailers due to poor customer service last year. In emerging markets, such as Brazil, China and India, that proportion increased to 40%. 18% of consumers in mature markets, such as the U.S. and Canada, said they switched retailers last year. The survey did not distinguish between bricks-and-mortar retailers and e-retailers.

The survey found that consumers generally approved of customer service tools familiar to many e-retailers. 77% of consumers said the use of online tools—such as e-mail, online ads, product comparison tools and online ordering—improved their experiences when deciding to purchase from particular retailers or service providers. 66% said tools such as live chat and self-service options like frequently asked questions improved the level of customer service available during the last few years.

62% of consumers said they looked to corporate web sites for information that influenced their purchase decisions, and 47% said they looked at other online sources for information, such as social networks. “It is imperative for companies to engage their customers in these channels to provide positive experiences and, ultimately, greater satisfaction,” the report says.

The number of consumers who cited price as a reason for changing retail and service providers dropped in 2010. In 2009, 75% of consumers identified price as a reason they selected a new provider; in 2010, 57% cited it. 54% of consumers said they were not willing to compromise on levels of customer service, product options or quality in exchange for lower prices. “In 2009’s research findings, price had greater influence, which may have been impacted by the economic climate,” the report says. “This year, price remains a key driver but has decreased in importance compared to other factors.”

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