Online shoppers can submit their questions and comments through a wider variety of customer service channels than ever.
As a result, brands on the other side of these interactions are continuously reevaluating where traffic is most likely to come through and how to align internal resources accordingly.
To help support leaders make more confident decisions, we made it a point to analyze channel preferences and perceptions within our 2019 eCommerce Customer Service Experience Survey.
Here’s what our surveyed shoppers had to say about which channels they turn to and why.
Which Customer Service Channels Do Online Shoppers Prefer…
How do shoppers seek customer service when things don’t go according to plan?
With no guiding direction other than “general issues,” eCommerce shoppers were somewhat divided on how they choose to reach customer service representatives.
Winning with a plurality of votes, the phone was the channel of choice for 31% of online shoppers inquiring with brands about general matters.
Live chat was close behind, however, with 29% of survey respondents selecting it as their main method of communication. The expectation of instant interaction — in combination with the comfort of anonymity — have made on-site chat tools a necessity for customer-centric brands.
But when we consider “general” issues, there isn’t necessarily an implication of urgency. As it turns out, email is still the preferred customer service channel for nearly one quarter (24%) of online shoppers. (It seems the personal inbox is still the central source of record for many.)
How do online shoppers seek service when time is of the essence?
In separate findings, our 2019 eCommerce Customer Service Experience Survey revealed that online shoppers expect the quickest response time from chat interactions. However, when they feel a matter requires urgent assistance they overwhelmingly prefer the phone.
Seventy percent of respondents said the phone was their top tool for urgent customer service — while 19% and 6% said the same for chat and email, respectively.
The takeaway here is that the phone is a tried-and-true method of reaching live agents in a position to sort sensitive issues fast. Chat tools are gaining popularity, but when a conversation carries significant weight, customers seem to prefer the reassurance and immediacy of another person’s voice.
Ease of Use
Which customer service tools do online shoppers find easy to use?
For this question, we presented participants with a list of popular support tools ranging from phone to FAQ resources and sought a simple yes/no rating on ease of use.
Here are the findings for the big three:
Phone – 53%
Chat – 59%
Email – 50%
Interestingly, these were also the only customer service channels to win a positive review from at least half of surveyed shoppers. FAQs, text messaging, and social media, for example, polled at 16%, 12%, and 8% respectively.
This seems to be a harsh critique of the UX and UI design of current customer service tools. But correlations with separate survey findings suggest that lack of familiarity is still holding several channels back.
Even so, the top performing channels have nearly as many critics as they do supporters. Either they aren’t as easy to use as brands think they are, or customers are conflating ease of use with the effectiveness of the interactions on the whole.
Luckily, we looked into that aspect as well.
Which customer service option do you feel is most effective for resolving issues?
We wanted to know which channels leave online shoppers the most satisfied with their customer service experiences. This time there was a clear favorite.
More than half of online shoppers consider the phone to be the most effective customer service channel.
Chat was a distant second at 23% while email trailed with 11% of the vote.
There may be room for improvement within the remaining channels, but as of now, it seems customers must directly communicate with a live agent to reach a confident resolution.
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If you found these insights interesting, check out our complete 2019 eCommerce Customer Service Experience Study and get a more complete picture of what online shoppers want.
Published on January 8, 2024.