About one-fifth of consumers now seek third-party advice first for service problems, according to a new report from Jupiter, which helps uncover how this new consumer behavior can best be served.
Posted May 9, 2007
People turn to friends and family first in moments of crisis and for many, according to a new study from Jupiter Research; this holds true whether the precipitating event is a true disaster or simply a minor product service problem. "Third-Party Service Seekers" finds that 18 percent of all consumers who seek service can be defined as third-party service seekers, or those who look to a blog or forum before contacting the company. Jupiter emphasizes that to counter negative feedback third-party service seekers might find, companies should keep their traditional service channels strong, because even third party-seekers will turn to the company in the end to resolve major issues.
The report finds that 18 percent of consumers reach out to blogs, forums, portals, friends, or enthusiast sites when attempting to fix a product or service problem. "Third party service-seekers are unlike first-party service seekers in many ways," the study states. Generally speaking, these consumers are also more tech savvy regarding traditional service channels. They are 17 percent more likely to be satisfied with IVR interactions than other consumers. Additionally, they are 75 percent more likely to be satisfied with a company's Web self-service offerings, such as FAQs on a Web site, than the average consumer seeking service.
Third-party service seekers are both pickier regarding service issues and more willing to spread negative feedback on companies and brands via word of mouth, according to the study. For example, they are 34 percent more likely to be concerned with the speed of turnaround on emailed service requests. They are also 13 percent more likely to become dissatisfied if email response is slow. Although the buying decisions of third-party service seekers are less likely to be affected by poor service (5 percent less than average said they would be less likely to purchase online from the company again), they are much more likely to share their experiences with others. Two-thirds of these consumers claimed that they tell acquaintances about poor experiences (16 percent more than average). They are more than twice as likely to contact a consumer protection agency as well. However, this feedback can go both ways; according to the report they are 2.3 times more likely to share a good service experience with people they know.
Although this consumer segment may seem like an uncontrollable threat to brand identity, Jupiter says that the best way to handle them is to provide good, timely service. A company cannot control where third-party service seekers go for service and who they spread negative feed to, but it can control what their traditional service experience looks like and therefore what these consumers will tell their friends. The report asserts, "Ultimately meeting these consumers' expectations will go a long way toward both mitigating risk of their negative viral activity and capitalizing on their gregarious tendency to spread word about positive experiences."
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