E-Shoppers Demand Access to Customer Service Reps
Online service means extending beyond the Web.
For the rest of the February 2001 issue of CRM magazine please click here

Is your e-commerce Web site satisfying your customers? Not unless you also provide toll-free telephone access to a contact center. According to new research from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business and KPMG, Web shoppers are demanding the ability to reach retailers by telephone also. More than three out of four e-shoppers (79 percent) said they also want a toll-free telephone line to customer service, and 63 percent want the option of making a toll-free call to place an order.

There are also several more must-haves for the online shopping experience. In addition to showing prices online, 64 percent of shoppers want to know the prices at the nearest retail store. More than half of them (57 percent) feel they should have access to specific product specs and warranty information. Another 57 percent want expert ratings of product quality.

"Consumers tell us they are not interested in technology for its own sake," says Dr. Raymund Burke, a professor at Indiana University. "People want the basics in their ideal shopping experience, and they are only interested in technology to the extent that it makes shopping faster, easier and more economical."

Despite Silicon Valley's push to move more and more of the consumer experience online, customers still desire multiple channels for research and shopping. An overwhelming 82 percent prefer to use more than one channel to learn about new products, 77 percent to hunt for new product information, 74 percent to compare and evaluate alternatives and 63 percent to purchase products. Interestingly, shoppers are far less likely to use multiple channels when looking for frequently purchased goods such as groceries and health and beauty products, a fact highlighted by the recent demise of such e-retailers as Pets.com and

Priceline's Web House Club.

"Consumers place greater emphasis on having detailed objective product information when shopping online because they have no physical interaction with the product," says Burke. "The fact that such a high percentage of online shoppers want toll-free access to customer service tells us that the ability to connect with a knowledgeable sales person, regardless of the channel shopped, is a key element of the ideal shopping experience."

Other key findings of the study:

• Seventy-six percent of shoppers want click-and-mortar retailers to provide online information on a local store's inventory.

• More than half of respondents want e-tailers to provide them with the ability to place a 24-hour courtesy hold on items in local stores.

• Technology applications are rated highest when they make shopping more convenient or provide important product information.

The study, titled "Creating the Ideal Shopping Experience: What Consumers Want in the Physical and Virtual store," was conducted with 2,120 people nationwide in June 2000.

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