The report on the top 50 UK retailers customer services proposition is still in progress. By progress I mean that all the criteria for evaluating their proposition has been recorded and I now need to review the findings to make some sense of it.
In the meantime as a light aperitif here's a preamble around the all-important Customer Services call-to-action. This simple link has stood firm during the past decade, its presence providing reassurance for millions of online consumers.
The labelling and positioning of this call-to-action reveals a great deal about a retailers attitude towards customer services. Does the site scream we're here to help you or is it a faint whisper?
Most retailers position a Customer Services link prominently in the page header. If a customer has a question or needs further information then these sites offer a quick and easy way in to Customer Services to find an answer. If you make a user work to answer a query then you'll start to drain their goodwill until the point that they tune out completely and go to another site. OK - there is no guarantee that once in the Customer Services section their query will get answered and I will be looking in to this in a future study.
86 percent of the top 50 UK retailers provided a Customer Services link of some sort. Of the minority that didn't 63 percent displayed a prominent phone number on every page. This was more common with the holiday companies and airlines such as Thomsonfly, Thomson Holidays and British Airways.
Only Debenhams and River Island tucked their services call-to-action below the fold, down in the page footer. You only need to sit in user test sessions to realise that users expect to find the Customer Services call-to-action in the header. More and more retailers are making the footer a more useful navigation schema and so in time Customer Services may migrate to the footer but years of customer expectations are not changed overnight.
Contact Us is making the footer its home, however - 58 percent of retailers provided links to Contact Details. 63 percent of these were in the footer.
Online users have always been impatient but recent reports suggest we are getting even more impatient. Users want to complete their task and leave, so any purchase inertia such as slow page load or hunting for information contributes to the abandonment rate, the holy grail of all metrics.
Debenhams not only place their Customer Services link below the fold but their contact phone number is 3 clicks away from any page. Not being able to contact Customer Services is regularly cited as the top non-cost related reason for customers abandoning a purchase yet Debenhams make it hard for customers to contact Customer Services.
Disappointingly only 32 percent of retailers displayed a phone number either in the footer or header, although 78 percent were only one click away from a phone number.
I've mentioned the positioning of the Customer Services call-to-action but what about the labelling?
Help and Customer Services account for 70 percent of the call-to-actions but there are a handful of other labels used. These alternatives contained either the word support or help so retailers did not deviate much from the familiar terms.
Who were the Winners and Losers?
Play as always show their commitment to user experience with links to Customer Services in the header and primary navigation, and a phone number in the footer.
Easyjet take the award for the most muddled execution of Customer Services by somewhat confusingly placed their help link within Contact Us. And it wasn't even prominent.
Hopefully my next post with provide a deeper insight in to the findings from this study. I have screengrabs of all the Customer Services links for all the retailers in this study and will upload them to Flickr when I've got time - I'll then post a link.
Listening to: Moonbeams by Throw Me The Statue