Study Shows Online Customer Service Recipients Happier

All shopping channels may flow into the same great retail sea, but customer service can mean something much different for traditional shoppers and online shoppers. A new survey conducted jointly by the NRF Foundation and American Express indicates that for online consumers, customer service concerns focus on Web site security, with 88% ranking that extremely important, and on-time delivery being a major concern of 73%.

In contrast, traditional shoppers in actual stores, naturally enough, concentrate their positive and negative feelings about customer service on the human interactions involved. Traditional shoppers tend to feel that the most important elements of good customer service are courteous employees (67%), being treated as a valued customer (65%), and being allowed to shop on their own—69% of respondents disliked “being pressured to buy merchandise.” And brick-and-mortar retailers should not overlook the importance of cleanliness: The NRF/American Express survey cites 60% of respondents as saying that a neat, clean store is extremely important to them.

Online retailers may not have to sweep the floors to keep customers happy, but both online and traditional shoppers agree on the significance of some aspects of customer service. For instance, 73% of traditional shoppers and 78% of online shoppers do not want retailers to share information about them with other companies. And respondents from both groups want items to be priced accurately (71% traditional, 75% online); want retailers to handle any after-sale problems with dispatch (63% traditional, 74% online); and want clearly established returns policies (60% traditional; 69% online).

Survey respondents generally feel that both online and traditional merchants are working to improve customer service, however that may be defined, but the statistical edge in satisfaction with customer service, at least in this study, goes to online retailers. An impressive 89% of online shoppers were at least “very satisfied” with their customer service experience online, while only 76% of traditional shoppers felt that way about their experiences in retail stores.

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