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capgemini-digital-channels-aftersales-care-july2012.pngDigital shoppers worldwide rate internet sites as their digital channel of choice for aftersales care, with 72% saying this channel is important or extremely important, according to a July report by Capgemini. Email (67%) is the next most-popular channel for aftersales care, followed by in-store technology (e.g. kiosks – 60%), and the traditional telephone call center (44%). Social media is an important choice for 42%, closely followed by mobile apps on smartphones, cited by 41%.

Internet sites are the single most important digital channel at every stage of the five-phase sales journey, according to the report. The sales journey progresses from the awareness phase to choosing, transaction, delivery and aftersales care. The aftersales care phase is unique in that both email and call centers reach their highest importance during this phase, while in-store technology drops to its lowest.

Aftersales Channel Criteria Focus On Returns, Service

Consumers rate easily returning products as their top priority for using aftersales digital channels, with 50% rating it extremely important. Second in importance is choosing from different return options, at 49% of respondents, followed by reaching customer service round the clock (45%). Service via live online chat is less important, cited by 27%.

The social aspects of reading and writing reviews, and participating in communities, were far lesser criteria. In general, shoppers seem skeptical of reviews and communities hosted by retailers, with just 45% saying they trust the peer reviews hosted in those channels. Similarly, only about one-third find the ability to read others’ reviews extremely important, and sharing comments (e.g. in social media) was only indicated to be of extreme importance by 28%. Participating in online communities provided by the retailers was rated extremely important by only 24% overall, but peaked at 70% in India, China, Mexico and Brazil. Finally, just 20% of shoppers were interested in creating public profiles visible to other shoppers.

While social media and online communities trail in importance, they are by no means unimportant. Consumers who have used social media for customer service are more engaged and vocal in speaking about their experiences than the general population, reported American Express in May 2012 survey results. This can play to companies’ benefit or detriment: these consumers were willing to spend 21% more for excellent service, compared to 13% more for the general population, but were also more likely to say that they have not completed an intended purchase because of a poor customer service experience in the past year (83% vs. 55%). And while they will tell more people on average about a good experience than the general population (42 vs. 15), they do the same for bad experiences (53 vs. 24).

After Sales, Traditional Call Centers Peak In Importance

Fully 44% of consumers rate phone-based call centers as important or extremely important during the aftersales phase of the five-step “sales journey.” Just 32% of consumers rate call centers as important during awareness, 31% during choosing, 36% during transaction, and 38% during delivery (for tracking).

Call centers are particularly important among shoppers in developing regions: 72% of respondents from India and 63% from China said call centers are important or extremely important, while almost half of shoppers from Sweden and Germany rated call centers as not at all important during the aftersales phase.

About The Data: Capgemini worked with ORC International to survey more than 16,000 consumers in 16 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the UK and the US. The composition of the consumer sample in each country was representative of the population for age and gender; income; education; employment and marital status.

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