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Sharing Customer Service Stories Online

Fewer consumers suffer in silence.

April 29, 2008

Brand managers have long known that news—both good and bad—spreads quickly online. Now US consumers are using social media to share their customer care experiences.

More than 70% of US Internet users surveyed in February and March 2008 said they used social media at least sometimes to learn about customer care offered when considering a purchase, according to a Society for New Communications Research study commissioned by Nuance Communications.

More than nine out of 10 respondents agreed with the statement, "I have chosen companies/brands based on my customer care experiences."

"Clearly, the customer care experience is a major predictor of future purchase decisions," said Nora Ganim Barnes, senior fellow at the Society for New Communications Research.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they chose companies and brands based on customer care information which had been shared online.

Agreement of US Internet Users that Their Choice of Companies and Brands Is due to Customer Care Experience Information Shared Online, February-March 2008 (% of respondents)

More than eight out of 10 respondents said that "blogs, rating systems and discussion forums can give consumers a greater voice in effecting changes in customer care."

Although many respondents said that social media were useful for sharing customer care experiences, they didn't necessarily use social networks to look for that information. Search engines, ratings systems, discussion forums and blogs all rated higher than social networks for finding customer care experience information.

Leading Online Resources for Customer Care Experience Information Among US Internet Users*, February-March 2008 (average score on 0-5 scale)

Consumers are likely to research customer care information at several stages prior to purchase, judging by a February 2008 PowerReviews-commissioned study conducted by the e-tailing group.

The study was specific to consumer reviews, but is still useful as an indicator of when consumers consult the advice of strangers.

Study respondents said they used customer reviews at the end of the research process to narrow down their choices.

Stage of Shopping Process during which US Online Buyers Read Customer Reviews, 2008 (% of respondents)

Jeffrey Grau, senior analyst at eMarketer, said there is a strong demand for the opinions of others, which can help online merchants.

"Not only do consumers notice product rating and reviews, they use and request them," Mr. Grau said. "Web retailers that offer ratings and reviews report a number of benefits, including more traffic, higher conversion rates and increased spending per transaction."

Find out about other research methods consumers use when shopping online. Read eMarketer's Consumer Interactions: Social Shopping, Blogs and Reviews report.

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