Customer service, according to a new survey by reviews platform Feefo, is something that British shoppers are deeply concerned with. When a customer is in the position that they need to contend with a customer service department, then the chances are strong that they’ll have a problem that needs to be addressed relatively quickly.
The most common complaints
Of the 2,000 shoppers questioned, 30% reported that being passed around a call centre was the most egregious customer service offence. Automated voice systems were in second place, at 21%. While 28% of those polled cited the quality of a product as the most important factor in a decision to buy from a particular business, the helpfulness of staff was not far behind, at 26%.
The most common frustration among shoppers was not being able to find answers to questions about a given product, with 53% citing it. 79% reported having abandoned a cart prior to completing a purchase while online shopping, showing that shoppers will have no hesitation in not following through with checking out if something isn’t quite right.
Among the easiest ways to get a message across to information-hungry shoppers is via an FAQ. This is often among the first things that customers look for when visiting a website, which suggests that many sites don’t give theirs sufficient prominence. 80% of those surveyed indicated that they use the FAQ section of a website – which leaves a big opportunity for websites that don’t currently have this.
What else can affect shopper’s decisions?
Review websites are often the first port of call among shoppers doing their research prior to purchasing. Although 64% of customers in 2024 claim to trust review websites, not all websites are equally respected; 49% trust closed review platforms over open ones, judging that the latter is more open to influence by unscrupulous businesses looking to paint a more flattering picture of themselves.
63% of those surveyed cited shipping costs as a reason for cart abandonment – the experience is one that tends to undermine trust in the retailer responsible. Customers, believing that they have settled on a final figure for their purchases, arrive at the cart to find a nasty surprise in the form of extra costs. This gives rise to a suspicion that there may be more nasty surprises in store, and thus puts the customer off in the long-term.
Given that 82% of shoppers surveyed claimed that price was their most important consideration when shopping online, it should come as no surprise that so many are sensitive to sudden and unanticipated price hikes. The takeaway for retailers: shipping costs should be declared upfront.
The most popular means of communication following a purchase is through email, with 70% of consumers preferring it. Businesses that provide excellent customer service tend to earn the continued trust of the customer in question; those that don’t, tend to risk alienating those customers. 30% of customers will switch to a competitor after just a single bad experience – which means that customers service departments face unprecedented pressure to get it right every time.
And the standards are extremely high. Regardless of the channel used to get in touch with a brand, 30% of customers expect a response in less than ten minutes. Anything that firms can do to meet this demand is therefore critical in securing a positive outcome to complaints and other issues.
That said, customers are willing to invest their time on their own terms. 48% claimed that they would happily answer a question or two if they popped up on a website – provided that doing so would improve the shopping experience. This suggests that retailers have an opportunity to gather valuable data on customer preferences and to customise their shopping experience.
Businesses are increasingly keen to promote their values. They might take a stance on a popular political issue, or explain the ethical criteria through which they select their suppliers. It’s easy to view this with a degree of cynicism, but 55% of customers surveyed indicated that brand values really do play a role in influencing a purchasing decision.
Surprisingly, only 4% of those surveyed claimed to be concerned about global issues like the environment when making a purchasing decision. This finding clashes slightly with ongoing polling from YouGov and others, which ranks the consideration of the environment at 25%. This gap may be accounted for by differences in methodology – but a less charitable explanation is that environmental concerns are not robust enough to extend to the way that we actually spend our money.
An impressive 20% of respondents told the researchers that they buy things in order to look good and impress others. While it might be easy to sneer at this kind of shallow motivation, the fact is that quite a few products are designed explicitly to impress others. The beauty, fashion and fitness industries might spring to mind – but high-status purchases like sports cars might also qualify.
The ‘Big Two’
Another trend highlighted by the survey is the dominance of Google and Amazon. The former is visited by 41% of those asked prior to purchase, but the latter, perhaps surprisingly, isn’t far behind on 38%. For Feefo’s Head of Digital, Richard Tank, this is the important thing to notice.
‘While Google’s online monopoly on the web has long been documented, it’s clear that Amazon is now just as prominent as the search engine, even though it’s technically an online retailer,’ he says. ‘It’s important to recognise that while consumers may start their search on these websites, they often end up buying from somewhere else.’
He goes on to say that, ‘Today’s digital landscape is ever-changing and businesses have to meet the needs of their customers across the whole purchase journey in order to maintain sales and brand loyalty. The findings of this survey emphasise that’.
With customers being more fickle than ever before, it’s critical that brands take steps to optimise the customer service experience in order to retain them – Amazon, with their ‘customer-obsessed’ approach, might be model to emulate to avoid the most common customer service gripes.