Making Leaders Successful Every Day

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1 January 23, 2012 Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 ebusiness Strategy by Diane Clarkson for ebusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals Making Leaders Successful Every Day

2 January 23, 2012 Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 ebusiness Strategy by Diane Clarkson with Zia Daniell Wigder, Amelia Martland, Elizabeth Stark, and Lily Varon Executive Summary Online consumers preferences for online customer service channels are evolving. More online consumers have adopted online self-service in the past two years; it has also disappointed more consumers. Consumer adoption of chat and social customer support has exploded in the past two years. Not all channels are equal among generations: For example, younger generations are more likely to prefer chat over the telephone and use social media for support. But a preference of online customer service is not the domain of youth. Savvy ebusiness leaders recognize that developing online customer support channels isn t a tactic to build future relationships with today s younger customers; online customer service is imperative to appeal to the majority of today s online shoppers. table of Contents 2 Online Customer Service Channel Preferences Are Evolving There Are Different Customer Service Attitudes Between Generations Online Customer Service Channel Usage Has Shifted From Two Years Ago recommendations 7 Savvy ebusinesses Will Revitalize Online Services In Supplemental Material NOTES & RESOURCES Forrester used data from the North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q (US) in the writing of this report. Related Research Documents The Metamorphosis To Agile Customer Service August 23, 2011 Emerging Technologies Help Post-Purchase Support Strategies February 17, 2011 Selecting Online Customer Service Channels To Satisfy Consumers and Reduce Costs June 25, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Forrester, Forrester Wave, RoleView, Technographics, TechRankings, and Total Economic Impact are trademarks of Forrester Research, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Reproduction or sharing of this content in any form without prior written permission is strictly prohibited. To purchase reprints of this document, please forrester.com. For additional reproduction and usage information, see Forrester s Citation Policy located at Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change.

3 2 Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 ebusiness Strategy online customer service channel preferences are evolving Consumers online customer service channel preferences are evolving. Savvy ebusiness professionals will inform their 2012 customer service strategies by understanding today s channel adoption and preferences and relevant generational differences. There Are Different Customer Service Attitudes Between Generations Different generations have different online customer service preferences, but these differences may not be what you expect. Toss out any preconceptions that the younger generations are the most impatient and their grandparents are not adopting newer customer service technologies. Forrester data reveals that: Younger generations are the least impatient when it comes to online customer service. Fortyfive percent of US online consumers agree with the statement that I am very likely to abandon my online purchase if I cannot find a quick answer to my questions, and two-thirds agree that Valuing my time is the most important thing a company can do to provide me with good online customer service (see Figure 1). While we may stereotypically associate impatience with youthful generations, there is a higher likelihood of impatience among Older Boomers and Seniors when it comes to wanting quick answers online and the likelihood to abandon if a website fails to deliver. A preference for online service is not the dominated by youngest consumers. Many ebusiness leaders cite expanding future online customer service offering as a tactic to appeal to their youthful customers. It is true that 37% of consumers ages 18 to 22 prefer online customer service to the telephone. But don t assume that a preference for online service over the telephone is restricted to youth; in fact, Generations X and Y (consumers ages 23 to 45) are equally likely to prefer online support over the telephone. Savvy ebusiness leaders recognize that developing online customer support channels isn t a tactic to build future relationships with today s younger customers; online customer service is imperative to appeal to the majority of today s online shoppers. Don t underestimate the Senior segment. Seniors are less likely to prefer online customer service, but it would be dangerous to assume that the telephone will satisfy; this segment is also likely to be impatient and abandon if their questions are not answered online. Meeting these high expectations can pay off. US online Seniors may be less likely to purchase online compared to their younger counterparts but don t underestimate their online commerce: 67% of Seniors have made an online retail purchase in the past three months. 1 January 23, , Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited

4 Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 ebusiness Strategy 3 Figure 1 Attitudes About Online Customer Service Vary By Generation US online adults Gen Z (18-22) Gen Y (23-31) Gen X (32-45) Younger Boomers (46-55) 45% 29% 36% 37% 40% 39% 44% 36% 48% 24% 66% 63% 68% I am very likely to abandon my online purchase if I cannot find a quick answer to my questions. Valuing my time is the most important thing a company can do to provide me with good online customer service. I prefer to use online customer service rather than speak with a live person on the telephone. Older Boomers (56-66) 20% 49% 75% Golden Generation (67+) 16% 52% 69% Base: 7,638 US online adults who have used any customer service method in the past 12 months Source: North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q (US) Source: Forrester Research, Inc. Online Customer Service Channel Usage Has Shifted From Two Years Ago Online customer service channel usage has shifted dramatically from two years ago. There are also significant differences in satisfaction between channels, particularly among different generations. ebusiness professionals should inform their 2012 online customer service strategies by understanding that: Telephone customer service is still important but not the most satisfying to all. Telephoning a live representative remains the most frequently used customer service channel and its usage is relatively consistent across generations (see Figure 2 and see Figure 3). This is not surprising: Telephoning a live person is the highest escalation to resolve issues. However, the telephone is not the channel of highest satisfaction for all generations. Generations Z and X have higher satisfaction chatting with a live agent rather than speaking on the telephone with a live agent. Generation Y s satisfaction with telephoning a live agent is tied with screen sharing and click-tocall (see Figure 4). Chat adoption has nearly doubled. Click-to-chat adoption has risen dramatically between 2009 and In 2009, 19% of online US consumers had used chat for customer service; by 2011 that 2012, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited January 23, 2012

5 4 Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 ebusiness Strategy number has nearly doubled to 37%. This increase is driven by an overall availability of chat across a range of industries including retail, insurance, and financial services. In 2009 there was no marked difference between chat usage and generation; approximately one in five online users had used chat regardless of age. That situation has changed today. Chat adoption has increased to roughly one in four Seniors and has risen to nearly one-half of online consumers ages 18 to 32 years. At 62%, chat has the highest satisfaction among all online customer service channels in our survey. More consumers are using online help sections and FAQs but fewer are satisfied. At, Help and FAQ sections are the most commonly accessed online customer service channel. In fact, more customers reached out to online Help sections or FAQs in 2011 compared to However, more customers were left unsatisfied as well. Only 51% of consumers who used online help sections or FAQs were satisfied with the channel, down from 56% in Social support is exploding among younger online consumers. There has been a dramatic increase in the use of social communities for customer service. In 2009, only 7% of US online consumers had used a forum or community for customer service; in 2011, that number has increased nearly fourfold. Even more notably, in 2009 only 1% of US online consumers had used Twitter for customer service; in 2011, 19% of consumers had reached out to the microblogging platform for support. Community support and Twitter are most widely adopted among younger consumers, with 41% of Gen X and 39% of Gen Y consumers using these forms of social support. However, don t assume social support is the domain of younger consumers: online community support is also used by 30% of consumers between the ages of 32 to 45 and 20% of online consumers between the ages of 46 to 55. January 23, , Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited

6 Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 ebusiness Strategy 5 Figure 2 Online Customer Service Adoption Has Grown In The Past Two Years Telephoning a company and speaking to an agent Help or frequently asked questions (FAQs) on a company s website Sending an to customer service 54% Instant messaging/online chat 37% with a live person 19% Click-to-call 27% Online forum or community with other customers Screen sharing Virtual agent Sending a mobile/sms message to the company requesting assistance Contacting a company using Twitter 1% 7% 20% 19% 27% 25% 24% 68% 69% * Base: 7,638 US online adults who have used any customer service method in the past 12 months, *3,639 US online adults who have used any customer service method in the past 12 months (multiple responses accepted) Source: North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q (US) *North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q (US) Source: Forrester Research, Inc. 2012, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited January 23, 2012

7 6 Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 ebusiness Strategy Figure 3 Not All Online Customer Service Channels Are Adopted Equally By Generation Percentage of US online adults by generation who have adopted online customer service channels Telephoning a company and speaking to an agent Help or frequently asked questions (FAQs) on a company s website Sending an to customer service Instant messaging/online chat with a live person Gen Z (18-22) 63% 47% Gen Y (23-31) 68% 46% Gen X (32-45) 66% 56% 40% Younger Boomers (46-55) 67% 50% 32% Older Golden Boomers Generation (56-66) (67+) 75% 68% 54% 29% 50% 48% 25% Click-to-call 37% 38% 29% 22% 21% 19% Online forum or community with other customers 41% 39% 30% 20% 16% 11% Screen sharing 34% 34% 27% 20% 19% 16% Virtual agent 36% 34% 27% 18% 14% 12% Sending a mobile / SMS message to the company requesting assistance 34% 31% 22% 14% 10% 6% Contacting a company using Twitter 31% 29% 22% 13% 10% 6% Base:7,638 US online adults who have used any customer service method in the past 12 months Source: North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q (US) Source: Forrester Research, Inc. January 23, , Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited

8 Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 ebusiness Strategy 7 Figure 4 Online Customer Service Satisfaction Varies By Generation US online adults Gen Z (18-22) Gen Y (23-31) Gen X (32-45) Younger Boomers (46-55) Older Boomers (56-66) Golden Generation (67+) Telephone 65% 66% 72% Chat 62% 62% 62% 63% 63% Screen sharing 56% 61% 58% 58% 54% 65% Click-to-call 54% 58% 51% 53% Online community 62% 56% 46% 49% 52% Virtual agent 53% 54% 58% 42% 43% 41% Mobile/SMS messaging 63% 44% 43% 42% Twitter 53% 45% 43% 43% Help or FAQs 51% 54% 58% 51% 49% 46% 51% Base: US online adults who have used each customer service channel in the past 12 months Source: North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q (US) Note: Specific base information is included in the spreadsheet associated with this figure. Source: Forrester Research, Inc. Recommendations Savvy ebusinesses will revitalize online services in 2012 Making generational assumptions about online customer service preferences could lead to missed opportunities. Savvy ebusiness leaders understand that today s online consumer across all generations is impatient, has high expectations, and is willing to seek support across a variety of online channels. To meet these expectations, ebusiness leaders must address that: Online self-service needs resuscitation. Technology to enhance online self-service is underutilized. Web self-service software such as IntelliResponse, RightAnswers, and RightNow can dramatically improve relevant self-service content. Similarly, virtual agent technology can facilitate automated online conversations that will provide personalized and relevant online support. ebusiness leaders must go back to basics, pull stale self-service content from their websites, and explore technologies that will dramatically revitalize online self-service. Chat should be considered in customer service and sales strategy. Chat has demonstrated its ability to enhance customer satisfaction, drive sales, deflect contact center calls, and improve operational efficiency. Given chat s dramatic growth in consumer adoption and its compelling satisfaction rates particularly among younger consumers savvy ebusiness leaders who do not currently offer chat should champion the technology s potential to achieve ebusiness goals. 2012, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited January 23, 2012

9 8 Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 ebusiness Strategy Social support is becoming mainstream. A couple of years ago social support was frequently viewed as an experiment to engage youthful consumers. Today social support use is exploding among consumers across multiple generations. Savvy ebusiness leaders will utilize Forrester s POST methodology to explore if and how they can leverage social support s potential to achieve ebusiness service goals including to facilitate, resolve, and redirect customer support. Supplemental MATERIAL Methodology Forrester fielded the North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q (US) in October 2011 of 7,638 to US individuals ages 18 to 88. For results based on a randomly chosen sample of this size (N = 7,638), there is 95% confidence that the results have a statistical precision of plus or minus 1.12% of what they would be if the entire population of US online individuals ages 18 and older had been surveyed. Forrester weighted the data by age, gender, income, broadband adoption, and region to demographically represent the adult US online population. The survey sample size, when weighted, was 7,637. (Note: Weighted sample sizes can be different from the actual number of respondents to account for individuals generally underrepresented in online panels.) Please note that this was an online survey. Respondents who participate in online surveys have in general more experience with the Internet and feel more comfortable transacting online. The data is weighted to be representative for the total online population on the weighting targets mentioned, but this sample bias may produce results that differ from Forrester s offline benchmark survey. The sample was drawn from members of MarketTools online panel, and respondents were motivated by receiving points that can be redeemed for a reward. The sample provided by MarketTools is not a random sample. While individuals have been randomly sampled from MarketTools panel for this particular survey, they have previously chosen to take part in the MarketTools online panel. Endnotes 1 Roughly 80% of online US consumers ages 18 to 54 have made a retail purchase online in the past three months. Thirty-three percent of US consumers ages 66 years and older reported that they have not purchased anything online in the past three months. Source: North American Technographics Retail Online Benchmark Recontact Survey, Q (US). 2 In 2009, of US online consumers used Help sections or FAQs for customer service. Source: North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q (US). 3 In 2009, 56% of US online consumers who used Help sections or FAQs for customer service were satisfied. Source: North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q (US). January 23, , Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited

10 Making Leaders Successful Every Day Headquarters Forrester Research, Inc. 60 Acorn Park Drive Cambridge, MA USA Tel: Fax: Nasdaq symbol: FORR Research and Sales Offices Forrester has research centers and sales offices in more than 27 cities internationally, including Amsterdam, Netherlands; Beijing, China; Cambridge, Mass.; Dallas, Texas; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Frankfurt, Germany; London, UK; New Delhi, India; San Francisco, Calif.; Sydney, Australia; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Toronto, Canada. For the location of the Forrester office nearest you, please visit: For information on hard-copy or electronic reprints, please contact Client Support at , , or We offer quantity discounts and special pricing for academic and nonprofit institutions. Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR) is an independent research company that provides pragmatic and forwardthinking advice to global leaders in business and technology. Forrester works with professionals in 19 key roles at major companies providing proprietary research, customer insight, consulting, events, and peer-to-peer executive programs. For more than 28 years, Forrester has been making IT, marketing, and technology industry leaders successful every day. For more information, visit

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