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Web Shoppers Gripe the Old-Fashioned Way

Dissatisfied customers make their voices heard.

Retailers have long known that customers spread the word quickly when they have had a bad experience. With user reviews and ratings sites becoming common, consumers now have the technology to spread the word faster than ever.

Yet online shoppers in the US who have had problems completing transactions also use direct word-of-mouth to share their experiences with others, according to an August 2008 study conducted by Harris Interactive for Tealeaf Technology.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they told someone in person about their problem, and one-half said they told someone over the phone. This is the most powerful type of recommendation against something consumers can make.

One of the reasons consumers start complaining to their friends is that they do not get satisfaction from customer service. In September 2007, the same two companies surveyed online shoppers who had contacted customer service about transaction problems.

Seven out of 10 respondents said that service agents did not understand their particular issue. More than two-thirds spoke with agents who were not knowledgeable about their Websites, and nearly one-half (49%) of respondents said their issues were not resolved.

However, online retailers should be careful not to shoot the messenger. While it might be tempting to shut down Web tools that enshrine bad feedback forever, that can do more harm than good.

More than one-half of US Internet users who posted feedback about products and services to Bazaarvoice client sites left positive feedback most of the time, according to a study conducted by Keller Fay Group and released in November 2007.

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