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One in three consumers prefer to talk

By Retail Technology | Monday December 2 2013

New report finds consumers are frustrated at being forced to interact with businesses online, with one in three preferring to talk to someone on the phone before buying

Retailers and service providers that force consumers to interact with them purely online are alienating customers and risk losing repeat business. That's according to a new report, published by ResponseTap, exploring the role phone calls play in the £582 million Ofcom figures show Britons spend online each week.
The report, based on a poll carried out by Atomik Research of over 2,000 UK consumers, found two thirds of people get frustrated when they are only able to interact with a company online, and one in three said they would prefer to talk to someone on the phone before buying -- equating to £186m of weekly online spend in the UK.
This figure rises to 41% for those aged over 55, which ResponseTap said was an important consideration when two thirds of retail spending growth over the next ten years is expected to come from this age group.

"There’s no doubt that purchasing online can save customers time and money, however companies can’t afford to lose sight of those who wish to speak to someone before buying, or simply want to buy over the phone,” commented Ross Fobian, chief executive officer at ResponseTap. 

Building trust boosts sales

“As a result of launching online stores, mobile sites and apps to automate customer interactions, many online retailers and service providers seem determined to make it virtually impossible to contact them. At the end of the day, it’s the consumers who dictate how they interact with a company or brand, something many businesses are forgetting, despite it ultimately benefiting them.”
Companies that offer easy access to advisers and assistants on the phone are likely to gain a distinct competitive advantage. According to the research, 57% of respondents said they trust these retailers and service providers more and 56% said they were more likely to return to a retailer to buy again if they know they can talk to them on the phone.
This is supported by a recent Google study, which showed that despite companies focusing heavily on online transactions, 52% of smartphone users say it’s extremely or very important to be able to call a business during the research phase – a figure that jumps to 61% when trying to make a purchase.
Fobian added: “What we’re seeing is a reaction against the ‘over-automation’ of online experiences. Yes, we all want convenience, but the old adage that people want to do business with people seems to hold true for many situations. Companies we work with tell us that phone calls are their highest quality leads and for many that sell more complex or expensive good and services, it’s their biggest sales channel.”
The full report, entitled Off the Grid, is available to download (after registration) here

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