Self Service please! Forums and FAQs on European Online Shops

Online consumers are growing to expect the same level of customer service that they experience in-store. The results of a recent study by Zendesk indicate that just 7% of online consumers surveyed were extremely satisfied by the degree of customer service provided by brands across their channels.

What are the options if online consumers want to help themselves rather than be restricted by time delays associated with the traditional contact of phone assistance and the two other popular channels: email contact and live chat?

In a recent study of their top 50 shops, price comparison site, idealo, looked at the top 5 channels of customer service across 6 European countries : email, phone contact, FAQs, live chat and forums.

FAQs: France is leading

67% of all European online shops in the study provide a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) which outline common problems relating to the purchase process or delivery options as a part of their customer service strategy. FAQs were most popular in France, and are available on 88% of shops in the French study, whereas in the UK, just 48% of the shops analysed offered FAQs as a helping hand to confused customers.

Forums: Poland lags behind

Shop forums where users can exchange and respond to questions sorted by topic, are the least popular method of customer service in the idealo study. The supervision of such a web forum can be time-consuming, which could be why only 10% of online retailers in the European study offer this service, and just 5% in the UK. In Poland, the number is even lower with only 2% of the top 50 idealo shops offering users a forum for feedback and advice. Slightly more open to forum use are the Spanish e-retailers, of which nearly a quarter (24%) in the study offered this service.

In the overall European study, the self-service channels of FAQs and Forums came third and fifth respectively, which could indicate that e-retailers in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland are not doing enough to supply their customers with self-sufficient help channels.

Finally, it was noted in the study that good customer service is when the contact options are quick and easy to locate and that any expansion of customer service channels should always be preceded by a review of the efficiency of any pre-existing services. This is particularly relevant for self service channels such as forums and FAQs as the very nature of these “instant-result” channels suggests that a user is looking to solve a problem quickly and directly.