How many times have you walked out of a retail store in a huff simply because the checkout lines were too long, the items were too hard to find, and there simply were no available salespeople? Maybe I am a hothead, but it happens to me quite often. And how many times do you hear others in the store point to store clerks who are doing nothing while lines form? The real frustrations comes when you can see that the staff is seeing the same problem you do and not taking action to solve it.
A similar situation occurs online around the familiar inconveniences of using a retail Web site. How often do we bail from a website because it is just too hard to perform a simple task? I was just on a grocery retailer's Facebook page that had lured me into a sweepstakes offer. In addition to a laundry list of personal details, it also wanted me to dig out my customer loyalty card and enter the microscopically printed digits in order to complete the entry. Are they kidding me? If they had asked me for that card first, then their own database should have had all the information it needed on me.
There is a wonderful new survey regarding customer frustration out this week from Redwood Software. My colleague Aaron Barr has covered the gist of the findings elsewhere at MediaPost, and the inevitable infographic is also available with a summary of findings, but this is the kind of thing that is worth a good rant as well.
Apparently I am not alone in storming out of stores, because 75% of the 2,000 surveyed admit to the same behavior. But there is a virtual form of the same thing that is almost as prevalent: More than 65% of respondents leave a site because they can’t find what they want. Almost half (49%) bail from online transactions because they take too long, and 48% because they are too complicated. The high cost of this abandonment is not just lost sales but probably lost lifetime customers, because 52% of consumers who leave a retailer -- online or off -- in frustration go straight into the arms of a competitor. Roughly a third of people have changed grocery stores, ISPs and banks in part because of customer frustration.
When you look at some of the top sources of frustration, like having to repeat account info, or being handed off to other staffers up the customer service chain (59%) or just repeating personal info to service reps (69%) the results seem all the more puzzling. Are these not easy tech fixes? Why is the ISP support line IVR system asking me to punch in my home phone for identification if it isn’t passing that along to the live rep? And why the hell would I need a “case number” for a problem if they already know who I am and what account I am using? Shouldn’t all of that information travel with me in an organization?
When it comes to online transactions, the disconnect is even more unfathomable. It isn’t as if there are no good examples of leveraging personalization to maximize retention and revenue. Don’t any of the people who design online retail experience themselves have an Amazon account? I have no problem sinking more money into Amazon than I intend from any platform on which it is present. Even Apple, which has a pretty poor recommendation engine, makes the transaction process across multiple screens so consistent and seamless that it seems second nature.
We have spent so much time and energy wringing hands over data abuse and privacy issues (not without cause, mind you) that another byproduct of the data-drenched age gets overlooked: how it raises consumer expectations of companies. Consumers understand that when they put their name and personal information into an electronic form there is no practical reason why they should have to do it again for the same company. We all know that much about digital technology.
In the age of digital data, the user is catching on in the same way the frustrated store shopper does when she sees long lines form and salespeople standing on the sidelines doing nothing. We know what they know -- or should know -- about us. Increasingly, a company’s refusal to use data to make the consumer’s path smoother will be seen rightfully as disrespectful of its own customers.