Business Reporter, a publication distributed in association with the Daily Telegraph, has reported on a recent survey that shows evidence of the rapid change in the expectation of today’s consumer, in light of the huge rise in Internet communication.
The study, conducted by Lithium Technologies on a vast number of Americans who were active online, shows a changing trend in how the average consumer is purchasing a wide range of products. The data exposed makes it evident that businesses need to catch up and update their existing methods of customer service in order to both maintain current customers and create new ones.
The study showed some of the following statistics:
• 81% of people use the Internet as a starting point for the research of large purchases, with 67% using two or more online platforms to help them decide.
• When asking about a product or service, 66% of consumers expect a response to their query on the same day, and over 40% expect a reply within the hour.
• 67% of people say they use the phone to make queries only as a last resort, demonstrative of the Internet’s impact on buying habits.
It is obvious from these statistics if not from our everyday lives that the Internet is having a massive effect on our expectations as a consumer. What we see online as a consumer has also been affected, with companies able to advertise their products and services direct to us via the web, tablet and mobile.
Additionally, we are also taking to the Internet to voice our opinions and listen to the opinion’s of others when considering purchases…giving companies another channel to monitor, and provide damage limitation for.
A Harsh Example
This leaves companies at a disadvantage if they are behind in terms of how they conduct their online customer service. Financial services as an example are some of the most tightly regulated - and making sure you can deliver the best possible service to the customer is not only key, it’s a legal requirement!
The Only Way Is Forward
Keeping tight control over terms and conditions and regularly checking your processes and services internally and externally for compliance – in this industry especially – can give the customer maximum clarity on their rights as a buyer and the legal responsibilities of the seller.
As well as expecting more, consumers have legal rights to more, making customer service imperative for companies to deliver correctly.
Patrick Waller of financial planning company Financial Planning Partners Ltd says, “The world of financial services is incredibly tightly-regulated to ensure we treat our customers correctly and deliver sound, relevant financial advice. We can’t afford to be lazy when it comes to customer service, and we receive (quite rightly) regular and thorough compliance checks from our regulator to ensure we are doing everything we can for the customer. In other industries, businesses must also provide workable solutions and keep abreast of the new trends in consumer behaviour – to ensure they deliver their best too.” So what do we do now?
Immediacy and Monitoring = The Way Forward
The evidence from Lithium Technologies’ study demonstrates a desire for flawless service at rapid speed. This along with the regulations applicable to some industries are so stringent that, combined with a new online consumer voice able to speak immediately, it is imperative businesses stand up and take note of customers if they are to be profitable in a changing society.
The Take-Away Message
If you've stepped up to the mark already - congratulations, if you're lagging behind - now is the time!
Charlotte Waller has been working in the online marketing arena for five years. Having acquired a wealth of experience managing customer service online via her clients, she has an in-depth knowledge of the online customer service experience and how to optimise and manage this using free and paid tools. Her clients have worked with a number of major brands and as such, she can provide a rounded opinion on customer service across the whole spectrum, from large eCommerce clients to smaller consulting firms.
Outside of the online world, Charlotte recently completed the "7 on 7" challenge, running a marathon on each of the seven continents over a period of eight years. To date she has completed 9 marathons, placing third in the Antarctic Ice Marathon in December 2013. Her completed marathons are as follows: Antarctica, Santiago, Milan, Nagano (Japan), Marrakech, Chicago, Sydney, London and Berlin.
She is currently considering burning her running shoes...