Suzy Coulson
Suzy Coulson 2 September 2016

Preferred support methods when customers encounter problems online - Web chat? FAQ? Go elsewhere?

Brands need to be aware of the research habits of their consumers and tailor each area of their website accordingly. The alternative is losing these prospective customers to someone else when they give up on a site and go elsewhere.

When researching and purchasing a product or service online, there will invariably be situations where a customer will either have questions or encounter problems on the website. There are a multitude of ways in which to answer/solve these problems. Typically, these ways include looking for:

  • FAQs/Help
  • Phone number to call
  • Call me back area
  • Contact us page
  • Web chat
  • Additionally, they could ultimately give up on the company and leave the website in search for another provider.

Between 2014 and 2016, Global Reviews has conducted 114 research studies across the following nine industries in Australia, Ireland and the UK:

  • Banking/Finance
  • Energy Retail
  • General Insurance
  • Health Insurance
  • Higher Learning
  • Sports Betting
  • Superannuation
  • Telecommunications
  • Travel Bookings

In all, 20 products/services within these industries have been assessed against the Global Reviews Digital Sales Effectiveness Benchmark. As part of these benchmarks, 28,268 in-market consumers completed the online sales journey on each of the assessed websites. After completing a series of product research and application tasks, these prospective customers were all asked what they would most likely do if they encounter a problem whilst researching a product/service online.

Across the three regions, it was found that the Irish are less likely to seek out an FAQ/Help page than Australian or British consumers – however it still ranked highly with 20%. This was the preferred method of solving any issues by 24% of Australian and British consumers. The most common method of getting answers for Irish consumers was by looking for a telephone number to call (21%). This method was preferred by 19% of Australians and only 14% of the British.  The use of the telephone appears to be more popular in Ireland not only with making a call, but also in the use of “call-me-back” functions. 11% of Irish preferred this method, compared to 8% in the UK and 7% in Australia.

The use of web chat features rated more prominently for UK sites with 22% preferring this method. Ireland and Australia were a bit lower here with 19% and 18% respectively.

Problems REGION

The differences in what consumers would do if they encountered a problem are not limited to regions, consumer behaviours also differ depending on what product/service they are researching.

Banking & finance

Across the banking and finance sector, help preferences are fairly similar across all products, except for savings accounts where there’s a stronger propensity to seek out FAQs and less of a risk of opting to leave the website and look for another provider.

Problems BANKING


Within the insurance sector, travel insurance is a bit of an outlier – most likely due to the short term nature of the policies. There tends to be less of a connection to travel insurance as there is for health, home and motor insurance, with one in five customers opting to find another provider rather than persisting on the website. Despite this higher rate of abandonment,  one in four customers would use FAQs, compared to the one in five for the other insurance products.

Health insurance is slightly above average for seeking out a telephone number and slightly below average for leaving the website.


Telecommunications, Energy, Higher Learning, Gaming & Travel

Unlike banking and insurance, telecommunications has quite different preferences when customers encounter problems online. Despite internet service providers and mobile phone providers typically being the same company, those looking for a mobile phone provider are more likely to take the self-help route with 30% saying they would look at FAQs/Help compared to the 23% who would do the same when looking for an internet service provider. This means that telecommunication companies need to be catering to differing needs within each area of their website by considering the placement and weighting of help features. What is more important for those looking at mobile phones is different to that of those looking at broadband.

Problems MISC

Looking at travel it appears that those looking for domestic flights are more inclined than those looking for international flights to want to speak to someone – whether that be via phone or web chat. This could be due to dealing with local support staff within the same timezone whereas for international flights the staff could be located anywhere depending on the intended destination. This does bring a higher risk factor for international flight sites where 21% of consumers stated that they would leave the site and look for another provider if they encountered a problem.

Unlike other industries, higher learning organisations truly offer unique products which in turn means that prospective students are forced to persevere on the site if they encounter problems unless there is another university that offers the same courses under the same conditions e.g. location. As a result, only 11% said they would leave the site if they had a problem, meanwhile an overwhelming 36% would use FAQs and 27% would look for ‘Contact Us’ information.

What this data shows us is the different research processes customers go through depending on the product or service they are wanting to purchase/apply for. Even within the one brand’s website, there are different wants and needs depending on the product. Therefore, brands need to be aware of the research habits of their customers and tailor each area of their website accordingly.

The alternative is losing these prospective customers to someone else when they give up on a site and go elsewhere.

Original Article

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