Despite spending almost US$500 million over the past 12 months to improve their customer service operations, e-tailers could face a loss of some $11 billion in sales by the end of this year,according to a report released Friday by market analysis firm Datamonitor.
Poor customer service all too often will result in users abandoning theirfilled shopping carts before finishing their transactions, said researchers.In fact, Datamonitor found that some 8.7 percent of incomplete purchases could have beensalvaged and converted into sales if e-tailers had provided better service,up from 7.8 percent last year.
Moreover, these lost revenues could representmore than a third of any individual company’s online sales.
“Online customer service will have a significant impact on the way consumersmake purchase decisions this holiday season,” said Datamonitor analyst GlennKoser. “A poor showing could spell doom for many e-tailers alreadystruggling to come up with capital to continue operations in 2001.”
Koser added that it is especially critical for pure-plays that lack thesupport of brick-and-mortar outlets to compensate for lost online revenue,since their fortunes are so closely tied to retaining a large and satisfiedcustomer base that could easily be lured elsewhere.
Slow Response Time
The greatest driver of customer frustration is sluggish and “dramaticallyinefficient” e-mail response time, said the report. Although online buyersexpect immediate replies to their questions and concerns, manymust wait days for an answer.
Since the new breed of Internet consumer is savvier and holds higherexpectations, researchers found that e-shoppers are more likely to besatisfied with sites that have direct interactive communication capabilitiesor provide phone support specifically for resolving service issues.
“People want their Web shopping experience to simulate the live shoppingexperience as closely as possible,” said Koser.
While e-tailers have made some strides in beefing up their customer servicecapabilities, Datamonitor concluded that the demand for online satisfaction”has become so overwhelming that many companies cannot keep up.”
This finding comes on the heels of a reportreleased this week by Jupiter Research and NPD Group, which found thatonly 29 percent of Web sites meet consumer response time expectations. Inaddition, it said that 62 percent of consumers who shopped online last yearand contacted customer service had a negative impression of online customersupport.
The study also advised Internet retailers to forego e-tail flash and insteadadopt consistent service models that provide “customary and mundaneactions,” including delivery updates and rapid responses.