And 60% of shoppers in a recent survey say they specifically visit a retailer’s e-commerce site for help before contacting customer service.

When online shoppers run into an issue, a majority of them first turn to a retailer’s e-commerce site to resolve their issue.

A new survey of 500 online shoppers from customer service insights company CFI Group and omnichannel services vendor Radial finds 60% of shoppers try visiting the retailer’s website before contacting customer service when they have a question or problem. However, more than a fifth, or 21%, said that a retailer’s website often isn’t helpful in answering their query.

The survey also finds that 80% of shoppers first try to resolve their issue “somewhere online” before reaching out to customer service.

The research also explored what customers thought about using visual interactive voice response (IVR), which allows consumers to get answers via their mobile device touch screens or chatbots for customer service.

It found that:

  • 32% who reach an IVR system try to use it, but say it was insufficient for their needs and that they needed to talk to an agent.
  • Only 18% are familiar with visual IVR.
  • 55% are likely to use visual IVR if given the option.

Radial’s client, arts and crafts retailer Michaels Cos. Inc., implemented a visual IVR tool to help its customers quickly navigate a visual-based menu optimized for smartphones, and then select options by touch versus listening to a list of options and interacting via voice. With visual IVR, more customers were able to resolve their own issues, thereby reducing the volume of calls going to live agents. It also reduced the average handle time for calls from more than six minutes to under one minute, the retailer says.

The report also notes that with basic questions more frequently being resolved by shoppers on their own via self-service tools, the need for well-informed live customer service staff is more important than ever.

“Digital properties can be enhanced, and automated interaction technology can be implemented, but live agents remain the primary driver of contact center satisfaction,” the report says. “In fact, as more self-serve tools resolve issues for customers, the calls that live agents receive inevitably become more complicated, requiring well-trained and knowledgeable agents with advanced skills to resolve customer issues.”


The report says retailers need to invest in well-trained and experienced customer service employees who can see the complete view of the customer—such as past orders, past emails and the retail site journey—and those who are “well integrated with the company.”

In response to the question:

“Based on my interaction with the agent, it seemed to me that the agent (select all that apply):”

  • Was well integrated with the company: 38% of respondents chose this answer
  • Had a lot of experience on the job: 38%
  • Was well trained: 49%
  • Had all the tools needed to help me: 55%

Compared to the average customer, customers who interact with a customer service agent who appears to be well integrated with the company have a 19% higher customer satisfaction score, a 17% higher customer loyalty score and are 20% more likely to recommend the company to others.


Consumers also are turning to social media for customer service help. For example, 17% of consumers have used social media to seek customer service assistance, according to a 2017 Zendesk Inc. report based on a survey of more than 3,000 consumers online. 12% have used a messaging platform such as Facebook Messenger, and 12% have posted a note on a merchant’s social media page.

Moreover, expectations are rising: 72% of consumers expect a retailer to respond to the customer service issue they posted about on social media within two hours, the Zendesk survey finds. That’s a 20 percentage point increase from three years earlier. And 82% expect a resolution within two hours, up 30 percentage points from 52% three years earlier.