The Importance of Customer Service in E-commerce
At least 28% of online shoppers abandon a purchase before completing it (Greenfield Online, 2000). Some consumers abandon purchases because they perceive it as riskier to shop online than shopping in stores or over the telephone where consumers can obtain direct and immediate information to offset the risk of the item not meeting their expectations (Greenfield Online, 2000). Other consumers find the checkout process confusing, and others abandon their purchases because they cannot speak with a customer service representative (Wasserman, 2001; White, 2000; LivePerson, 2000). These factors -- purchase risk, confusion, and lack of contact -- appear to be the primary, but not the only reasons for purchase abandonment. Poor interface design (Lohse and Spiller, 1998; Nielsen, 2000), privacy and security (Culnan and Armstrong, 1999; Hoffman, Novak and Peralta, 1999), search attributes and pricing (Brynjolfsoon and Smith, 1999), and emotional trade-offs of not shopping in a store (Luce, Payne, and Bettman, 1999) also have been documented. Some of these primary and secondary factors may be mitigated with more effective online customer service interactions to improve contact and reduce risk factors. Others, such as poor interface design, may not. However, purchase risk factors such as perceived quality (Brucks, Zeithaml, and Naylor, 2000; Lal and Sarvary, 1997) and related purchase selection problems (Bauer, 1960, Levitt, 1986; Chaudhuri, 2000) are factors that may be directly addressed with customer service chat interaction. It appears that organizations are moving toward customer service chat as a low-cost mechanism to reduce online shopping risk (Wasserman, 2001; Hollman, 2000). Estimates for implementation of this software in call centers range from 27% to 45% within the next one to three years (Hulme, 2000; Vaczek, 2000).
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