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Report: Survey Explores How Consumers Prefer to Contact Retailers When Making a Purchase

consumers-contact-retailers-purchaseIf you dread calling retailers for answers to your questions – mainly because you know you’re about to be put on hold for the remainder of the day – you’re not alone. According to [24]7’s survey of over 1,000 consumers in the U.S., chatting – either through websites or messaging apps – is now the preferred way to interact with and contact retailers when making a purchase, finally edging out phone calls. Maybe that’s partly because chat programs don’t notice or care if you respond to their questions while eating a sandwich or singing along to your favorite song. Customer service through online chat is definitely less awkward and more convenient than phone calls, especially for millennials, as [24]7 reported in A Retailer’s Guide to Chatbots, Live Chat, and Messaging. Here’s a summary of what else this report found.

Chat Is Slightly More Popular Than Other Methods of Communication

The main thing you need to know is that this report discovered that chat just barely beat phone calls for the preferred method of contacting a retailer during the purchasing process. More specifically, 28.9 percent of the people surveyed prefer to chat with retailers, with 26 percent of those preferring online chat and nearly 3 percent opting for messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Compare this to the 28.7 percent who like phone calls and 27 percent who prefer email. Less popular customer service options include using self-service online tools, such as FAQ and the search bar (11 percent), and social media, accounting for just 3 percent of responses.

Millennials’ Preference for Online Chat Is Even More Prevalent

If your audience is between the ages of 18 and 34, using live chat for customer service is a must, because for 37 percent of that age group, chat is the preferred way to interact with retailers. Of those, 30 percent like online chat and 7 percent prefer using messaging apps.

Phone calls don’t even get second place here like they do with the general population. Instead, email is next up, with 23 percent of millennials preferring this option and only 21 percent preferring the phone. So if you haven’t already, make sure your team is set up to interact with consumers through the internet, not just by old-fashioned telephone.

Consumers Value Convenience and a Smooth Customer Experience

Why do people seem to prefer online chat these days? Well, as you know, it’s convenient because you have access to quick answers to your questions at nearly any time. That’s what 15 percent of survey respondents said anyway when asked why they liked using messaging apps for customer service.

About 10 percent said they like that they can see the conversation history, while another 10 percent said they like that they already have messaging apps on their phone.

Additionally, messaging apps make it easy for customers to get updates on their orders, which is a big way to improve the shopping experience, according to 20 percent of respondents. So if you’re going for convenience and a better customer experience, using live chat is a good idea.

Phone Beats Live Chat for Post-Purchase Problems

Chat technology may sound like the winner when it comes to engaging with customers during the purchase process, but it’s the phone that wins out when customers encounter a problem with the purchase. About 40 percent of survey respondents said they want to call the retailer when something goes wrong.

At that point, the next most popular method of contact is email, at 29 percent. And the preference for chat dips way down to 21 percent, with 18 percent of that making up online chat and 3 percent being a messaging app.

Human Interaction Is Still Important to Customers

It might sound like consumers want to automate everything when dealing with retailers. But the reality is that the majority of respondents – 62 percent – prefer to talk to a human rather than a machine. Furthermore, only 10 percent prefer to talk to a machine than a human, and 39 percent said they’d talk to a chatbot for customer service.

One thing most respondents had in common is that they would only be okay with talking to a chatbot if they knew they could talk to a human when necessary. For example, if they had questions the chatbot could not answer or if they were not satisfied with the conversation, they’d want to be able to reach a person working for the retailer. So keep this in mind before you automate customer service.

In fact, you should consider all the information gleaned from this report before you make any changes to how you provide customer service to consumers during the purchase process. You can learn more by reading A Retailer’s Guide to Chatbots, Live Chat, and Messaging in its entirety.

Do you use chat technology to allow customers to contact you during the purchase process, or do you stick to phone, email, or other methods of communication? Will this change now that you know how popular chat is?