Although more women are power players in the business world today, the online community is still an area yet to be conquered by women. 1&1 Internet Inc., the world’s largest web host, reports that only 13% of web hosting customers are female. With over 650,000 customers in North America, the statistic shows that men have a significantly larger presence online. Now that the Internet is becoming an essential element in many businesses, it is especially important for female entrepreneurs to keep apace by establishing a successful online presence.
Companies are constantly working to retain customers and encourage loyalty in order to keep their doors open. Customer loyalty is especially crucial to the survival of online businesses. Impatient buyers have more and more competitors to choose from, and will quickly leave a site if they cannot communicate their questions or concerns in real-time.
In fact, according to the ‘Web site Communication Survey’ of some 1,025 North American consumers conducted by Toronto-based MaCorr Research and commissioned by 1&1 Internet, the ability to contact a business is the most important aspect of using a business’ web site for 85% of North Americans.
The real-time factor. North Americans are becoming increasingly keen on real-time live dialogue via the web. The survey found that almost half of consumers (49%) use live chat and instant messenger tools in their personal lives more than 11 times a month. Over 50% of consumers perceive companies that provide communication features such as real-time dialogue as progressive, advanced, and eager to please the customer. As consumers become increasingly tech-savvy, the demand for easily accessible and advanced communication features is becoming more important for business web sites. Significantly, the majority of consumers (72%) will spend less than three minutes searching for contact information on a web site before switching to another site.
Poor communication elicits negative emotional response from customers. Most consumers become quickly frustrated when they are unable to find a way to communicate on a business’ web site. Approximately 70% of consumers have a negative perception of businesses that do not provide ways to contact directly. A lack of clear contact information such as address and telephone numbers on a business web site has elicited a negative emotional response, such as irritation (78%), all the way to tears or violence (5%). Also, almost half of consumers (48%) have felt angry to the degree that they tell someone. Moreover, they report having been most irritated by being unable to find the contact phone number (91%) and unable to find the contact email (82%).
On the contrary, a successful experience contacting a business can cause 85% of consumers to bookmark a business web site. The study further showed that 89% of consumers expect all businesses to have a web site regardless of size. However, they tend to build better relationships with smaller companies. That’s evidenced by the fact that 68% select a small business for greater personal attention and over half (51%) choose a small business, over a large corporation, because of the individual relationship they build with the business.
Personal approach to customer service provides huge advantages. For businesses to remain progressive and appealing, it is imperative that they use advanced features to communicate with the consumer. Small businesses especially should take advantage of new applications for providing direct and personal dialogue to consumers. Furthermore, the survey revealed businesses that provide effective communications features benefit significantly. For instance, 85% of consumers said that ‘Availability of contact information’ is the most important characteristic of a business web site. After successfully contacting a business, almost all consumers (97%) agree that they would visit the web site again and use the business again in the future. Some 93% would potentially use the business more frequently and 92% would recommend the business to others. Businesses that fail to recognize the features that attract consumers to a web site and fail to use the right tools that turn a consumer into a loyal customer, are more likely to fail in satisfying customers who expect support from start to finish.
Overall this research underscores the fact that consumers value an attentive, approachable and easily accessible business. They will not hesitate to move on to a competitor who better understands the meaning of ‘quality of experience’. Whether it’s the immediate availability of contact information or real-time online messaging, consumers now place high expectations on businesses to provide an instant means of communication. Keep in mind that, “In the world of Internet Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away.” (Doug Warner)
Article adapted from “How to Promote Customer Loyalty on the Web” by Ann Marie Tropiano
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