When confronted with poor standards of customer service online, 94% of respondents to a survey said they would seek out a competitor or stop using the company’s website altogether.

The survey, commissioned by nGeneraCIM, highlights the importance of meeting the needs of customers online, with 91% of UK web users saying thet customer service is important when buying online.

If customers need more information when on a website, email was cited as the preferred method of communication by 36% of respondents, while 26% saif they would consult the FAQs section, and just 19% preferred to call customer services.

The biggest frustrations for customers are being stuck in a call centre queue (66%), 52% would be irritated if they couldn’t find the information they want on a company’s website, and 36% are annoyed when email response is slow.

Unfortunately, many of the UK’s retailers haven’t provided contact options that are adequate. In this travel website study from last week, several sites, including EasyJet, Ryanair and bmibaby either didn’t provide a telephone number, or charged customers for calling. Email options were poor too, with bmibaby, Ryanair and Britanny Ferries not even providing an email address.

Ideally, sites should be providing a range of contact options for customers to choose their preferred channel, as well as a comprehensive FAQs section for those that prefer to find the answers themselves.

Live chat is another option that customers would like to use, though I can only think of a couple of retailers in the UK that provide this at the moment, Comet and Amazon.

An effective online customer service strategy with the right resources channeled into
it can boost customer retention (and in a lot of instances,
acquisition), and any investment more than likely to be rewarded. For
all the businesses out there: If you haven’t reviewed your customer
service strategy, I suggest you do so straight away.

For more information see Econsultancy’s  Online Customer Service Buyer’s Guide, which features the following suppliers: ATG,
Bazaarvoice, Clicktools, Confirmit, Creative Virtual, Danesoft,
Globalpark, InQuira, Instantservice, iPerceptions, nGenera (Formerly
Talisma), Parker Software, RightNow Technologies, Synthetix, Transversal.