Social reviews prove increasingly influential in consumer buying decisions, according to an independent survey of 3,000 European consumers announced today. The findings, published in the eGain 2012 cross-industry benchmarking report for multichannel customer experience comprehensively charts influences on consumer buying behaviour and service preferences in seven European economies, and ranks Internet Retail, Telecoms, Utilities, Travel & Leisure, Finance and Manufacturing sectors based on the quality of consumer experiences. The survey was undertaken online by Vision Critical and commissioned by eGain Communications Corporation.
According to the survey, telecoms providers were ranked fifth out of the six industries benchmarked. Internet Retail consistently ranked highest at every stage of the customer engagement cycle, leaving Telecoms to outperform only Utilities.
Telcos are rated ‘fair’ for creating trust and confidence in customers, posting an average score of 3/5 across service scenarios. While more than 1 in 10 consumers rated their experience with telcos as excellent (a score of 5/5), their low ranking is due to a significant show of poor experiences (a score of 1/5 or 2/5). Specifically telcos were rated poor in ‘first interaction’ (28%), ‘follow-up approach’ (26%) and ‘meeting expectations and engendering loyalty’ (27%).
Andrew Mennie, General Manager at eGain EMEA said, “These statistics are positive for telcos, but it is clear they have more to do if they want to move away from the utility style of service experience the industry is traditionally associated with, and toward the ‘best in class’ experience of retailers.”
The most cited causes for abandoning a purchase are: Unclear or confusing expectation of service (26%); Payment and sign up processes were too lengthy or complicated (21%); Negative social references (20%).
In the UK, negative social reviews and ratings were the biggest influence on shopping basket abandonments (30%) whereas in France, negative social reviews were as influential as unclear service expectations (both 25%).
When asked to rate positive influences on completing a purchase or transaction, a fast response to an email (41%) and a good website FAQ (38%) came top. Neck and neck were social recommendations and a telephone call with the business (22% and 24% respectively); in the 18-to-34 year age group, social influence was even higher at 29%.
Also, consumers like to channel-hop. When seeking help, 2 in 5 consumers will begin a service interaction with phone or email, while 1 in 5 will choose to help themselves via web self-service. German and UK consumers are two times more likely as those in Benelux and Scandinavia to make online self-help, their entry point for customer service. German consumers prefer email (38%) to the telephone (30%), in contrast to the rest of Europe, where phone is the preferred first channel.
When consumers add a second channel to that same interaction, for escalation or convenience, self-help becomes more popular with 1 in 3 consumers choosing online web self-service to seek assistance, while social media is cited as a preferred channel with 1 in 10 consumers.
Email (48%) and phone (32%) are still the go-to channels, when it comes to complaints. However, a significant proportion of consumers (17%) would use web chat or social media to complain. When consumers add a second channel to their complaint, social media proves difficult to ignore, with over 13% choosing it as the channel of choice.
Consumers welcome the right sales offer through the right channel, at the right time. Despite consumers’ supposed revolt against SPAM, SPIT and SPIM, the survey found 61% would consider a promotional email offer for a complementary product, and 59% a loyalty reward offer sent through email.
For contract renewal offers, better than 1 in 5 people would consider a telephone offer, and 1 in 2 an emailed offer. Benelux is the region least receptive to offers on complementary products or services: 1 in 5 say ‘not in any circumstances’.
Service expectations rise with loyalty and price. Consumers strongly disagreed with the statement ‘When I pay a bargain price for a product or service, I’m willing to accept a lower level of customer support’. In other words, businesses can ill-afford to offer shoddy service, even if they offer bargain prices
However, 50% of those same respondents expect an even higher level of customer support when they demonstrate loyalty or pay a premium for service.
Andrew Mennie, general manager, eGain EMEA said:, “Today’s consumers are highly sophisticated and demand universally high service across interaction channels and customer lifecycle. However, when expanding or extending a relationship, customer experience becomes even more influential. The survey shows that consumers are increasingly taking a ‘something for something’ approach with service expectations; expecting premium pricing and customer loyalty to warrant enhanced levels of customer service. Any winning business strategy should therefore include service as an important element. As the survey indicates, this approach can also help enhance profits and customer loyalty.”
“The power of consumer opinion, expressed via social media, is now too significant to ignore. Not only are social reviews highly influential at the start of the customer experience, but social channels are also an increasingly important part of the customer interaction mix as that journey progresses. Add to this consumers’ tendency to channel-hop, and a unified approach to multi-channel service becomes key to providing the consistent and context-aware experiences that today’s consumers demand.”