The Wrath of Frustrated Online Shoppers, American-Style


On Thanksgiving, I wrote about a survey demonstrating the business impact of bad online customer service and poor Web site/contact center integration. The survey was conducted in the UK by Harris Interactive for TeaLeaf, which offers customer experience management solutions to companies.


As it turned out, TeaLeaf is based in San Francisco and ran a similar survey in the U.S. Public relations agent Melissa Hick of the Horn Group recently contacted me by e-mail to share the results of the U.S. Survey.


Basically, the news is the same-nine out of 10 U.S. Web users say they've had difficulties with online shopping, 41 percent abandoned the transaction when problems occurred, and nearly two in five did not have their problems resolved after calling customer service.


The press release did reveal one uniquely American aspect to the perils of bad online customer service. Just as in the UK, three in four customers stop doing business with companies when contacting the call center didn't resolve their problems with the Web site, and another 37 percent decided to decrease the amount of business they did with the company.


But on top of that, 13 percent of U.S. shoppers lodged a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.


It's important to note that the pebble that seems to get this avalanche of ill-will rolling is not just a bad online experience, but a bad online experience coupled with cluelessness and lack of help from the call center. And again I say, that's where integration comes into play. If customer service can't access what's happening on the Web site, they can't help.


The press release also provided more details on how online shoppers spread their complaints. I assumed much of the complaining was done online, but as it turns out, online shoppers take their complaints offline. A whopping 82 percent said they would use non-online modes of communication, such as talking to others face-to-face or calling friends and family to complain.


Of course, they'll also rat you out with technology, too: 58 percent used online channels to complain. Thirty-nine percent posted bad reviews on a company's Web site, 23 percent e-mailed family and friends, 10 percent posted to review Web sites, 8 percent went to online message boards and 7 percent posted to a blog or social networking site.


And that doesn't even take into the account the impact of the BBB website, which allows users to search for complaints against companies online.


When I first read the breakdown, it occurred to me that the face-to-face complaints probably carry more weight with potential customers. However, as the release points out, the online grousing has a longer impact since these comments "are often widely disseminated and long lived."


I'd also be willing to bet that, by the end of next year, the number of complaints posted to social networking sites will increase.