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Customers who experience problems when conducting transactions online are sharing these experiences on social media sites; 13% this year compared with 8% in 2008.

This is one of the findings of a Tealeaf survey of online customer behaviour, and provides another reminder that online retailers need to focus on customer experience, especially as 74% of online adults said negative comments read online have an influence on whether they will do business with a company.

The report finds that many companies need to improve both their website performance, as well as the quality of their responses to customer problems and complaints.

Companies risk both the loss of sales, as well as the prospect of negative comments being left on social media sites for other potential customers to read.

Website issues

  • Many of the problems encountered by customers trying to make purchases are things which could be solved by retailers, such as error messages, confusing navigation, insufficient or incorrect information, or login problems.
  • There has been an improvement when compared to last year's survey; 77% said they had experienced a problem during a transaction this year, compared with 89% in 2008.

Customer responses to problems

  • People are contacting retailers directly less often than last year, with just 25% posting a complaint on a company's website, and 35% phoning a call centre, down from 29% and 42% respectively.
  • Almost as many (48%) will share their experience with friends and family to discourage them from using that website or company.

Influence of social media

  • The significance of social media is underlined in this survey, with 51% of respondents saying that social media has influenced their online transactions.
  • 75% said their choice of retailer was influenced by what they read on social media sites, while 56% avoided a particular company after reading a bad review. The reverse can also apply though, with 52% declaring that they chose a particular retailer after reading good reviews. 

Customer service

  • The survey results suggest that there is much room for improvement in customer service, with customers who actually contacted companies failing to have their issues resolved.
  • 51% said their problem was not resolved, while 77% said the agent was neither knowledgeable about their particular query or about the website itself. Failure to resolve problems when customers make the effort to get in touch is not only poor service, but also increases the likelihood that customers will pass on the details of this experience to others.
Graham Charlton

Published 13 October, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (4)

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Tom Albrighton, Digital and SEO copywriter at ABC Copywriting

Under 'customer responses to problems', the first bullet should begin 'People are contacting retailers directly...'.

about 7 years ago

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Elizabeth Sealey - Customer Service Consultant

As online sales are growing, merchants need to start taking customer service seriously to stand out from the crowd. If I buy something in a store I can get advice from the assistant, I can return it easily to the store if there's an issue with it and providing that my issue is handled well, brand loyalty will be built.

On the majority of e-commerce websites the customer experience is sterile. Nothing is done to build loyalty, I don't get personalised advice, and returns are difficult.

In a challenging economy, standing out and being different will win you more customers.

Elizabeth Sealey

about 7 years ago

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Bill Hildebolt

This takes us back to the bad old days where any interaction between a company and its end consumers meant trouble...someone was calling the call center to complain. Not 15 years ago, the idea that most consumer conversations around products were positive was inconceivable to anyone in brand or product management. Now its actually *news* that consumers might have something less than flattering to say. Hmmm. Maybe this is evidence that the 'relationship' between consumers and brands is getting even more serious...we fight the most with the ones we love, right?

about 7 years ago

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Dey Alexander

Thanks for the post, but it would be nice if the graph was readable.

about 7 years ago

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