Customers who are comfortable shopping, browsing and communicating on the Internet tend to prefer resolving customer service issues there, too. But a recent study by e-Satisfy.com (formerly TARP) for the International Customer Service Association, Chicago, found that customers are less likely to find satisfaction online than if they dial a customer service representative by phone.
According to the study, only 36 percent of the 50,000 customers who electronically contacted one of 16 sponsor companies were satisfied with their online contacting experience. That's partly because customers have high expectations for online contacts. E-customers expect an acknowledgment of their e-contact within one hour, says the study. But only 12 percent of study respondents got an acknowledgement within an hour, and only 42 percent got a response within 24 hours. As for final response, 30 percent of the study's e-customers got their problem resolved within 24 hours. For another 18 percent, resolution took more than seven days, and nearly four out of ten never received a final response.
Surprisingly, the Internet may not be the quickest way to resolve a customer service issue. Only 40 percent of e-contacts logged by the study were resolved with one online contact. In the case of almost half of the e-contacts, the customer had to place at least one telephone call to achieve resolution. Half of the customers who initiated offline contact had to make two or more calls to obtain a resolution. The study showed that even as e-contacts increase, the volume of phone and mail contacts is generally not changing.
Disgruntled customers are eager to share their experiences, according to the study. Dissatisfied e-customers tell twice as many people about their e-experience (both on and offline) than satisfied customers. And, dissatisfied e-customers are almost four times more likely than satisfied customers to discuss their e-experience in an online chat room.
For more information, go to www.icsa.com/public/pubs
--Louise Bullis Yarmoff