Customers Increasingly Research Companies on Third-Party Sites
By 2025, 60 percent of consumers will seek information about companies and their products from third-party sources of information not owned by those companies, according to Gartner.
The research firm found that younger consumers already use third-party information sources like Yelp and Reddit more frequently than older consumers, suggesting that this trend will increase as their share of the total customer base grows. By the numbers, 66 percent of Millennials and 56 percent of Gen Z consumers reported using third-party sources before contacting companies through official service channels, compared to just 25 percent of Baby Boomers who did so. The survey also found that 58 percent of younger customers (Millennials and Gen Z) trust third-party information sources as much as company-provided information because they find the information easier to use or less biased.
Eric Keller, senior director of research in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice, sees this as a double-edged sword for companies. “This will further complicate service journeys and erode the control service and support leaders have over experiences,” he says. “However, this trend also brings opportunities to help customers access trustworthy, peer-to-peer support with limited investment from the company.”
At the same time, though, he also fears that this will result in customer service journeys growing in complexity, with customers unable to separate their experiences on third-party channels from their experiences on company-owned channels.
Greater use of third-party sources could also reduce companies’ opportunities to engage in value-enhancing activities, next issue avoidance, and upsell activities.
Keith McIntosh, a senior principal and researcher in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice, also sees this as a double-edged sword, but for different reasons. “On the one hand, peer-to-peer support allows for easy-to-follow language that leads to fewer inbound contacts. On the other hand, third-party channel resolution distances the organization from its customers, minimizing the access to real-time customer data,” he says.
To best adopt third-party channel strategies and avoid customers having to expend more effort to have their issues resolved, Gartner suggests customer service and support leaders take the following actions:
• Include issue resolution through third-party sources as a key pillar of the company’s self-service strategy. This can be done through optimization of the content customers see on third-party search websites.
• Update internal knowledge management to educate reps on which third-party channels customers use, what information they find there, and how to handle the perceptions they might bring to service interactions based on those third-party experiences.
• Partner with internal stakeholders (e.g., legal, communications, marketing, product, and sales) to evaluate the opportunities and risks of integrating third-party content into company-owned channels or directly linking to third-party content.