Online Customer Care Is Improving

Aspect Communications has announced that its annual survey of online holiday shoppers, conducted through independent firm Greenfield Online, revealed that 40 percent of respondents found their customer service experiences had greatly improved from those of 12 months ago. Another 54 percent of online shoppers responded that their customer service experiences were as good as or slightly better than their experiences the previous year. In all, more than 90 percent of survey respondents had positive customer service experiences shopping online this past holiday season.

In the survey for 2002 respondents beseeched online companies to improve their overall customer-service response times and to provide better agent training in the newer contact channels, particularly email, according to Aspect. Holiday shoppers saw a marked improvement for 2003 in response times overall, and to email inquiries in particular. Survey results confirmed that email--equaling 70 percent of all inquiries--has cemented its place as the most popular contact channel among holiday online shoppers by a wide margin. In terms of response times, nearly 20 percent of those surveyed reported having received responses to their customer service inquiries via email in under an hour, and 53 percent received responses within the 12-hour business day.

"These results indicate many companies are listening to the concerns of their online customers in earnest," said David Puglia, Aspect's senior vice president of global marketing, in a statement. "We saw a number of companies reevaluate and restructure their customer service strategies to suit the online shopper. When you consider that online shopping revenue experiences double-digit growth every year, providing the best customer service solution isn't just about customer retention anymore, but rather, an imperative for capturing new revenue as it moves online."

Aspect's survey also revealed that 62 percent of the respondents for 2003 found it necessary to contact customer service only one or two times, with more than 90 percent of those contacts either being routine requests for more information on a product or a check-in on shipping/delivery status. Ninety-nine percent of those information requests were processed through some kind of a customer self-service system. Respondents for 2002, however, had bemoaned the lack of adequate online or voice self-service systems. The difference indicates that online retailers responded to market demand with new customer self-service functionality for the 2003 holiday season.

Overall, Aspect says that the online shopping experience for the majority of respondents was more positive than in past years, with only a small percentage (less than 3 percent) reporting any serious problems. An average of 53.3 percent of the survey participants also gave high marks for their conversations with live CSRs, emphasizing that the agents as a whole were polite, professional, knowledgeable, and able to process customers' requests with a high degree of accuracy.

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