Using consumer data to challenge assumptions about how consumer segments will respond to various online customer service touch points is always interesting to me.

I’ve recently had an opportunity to the seniors (age 65+) and online customer service and found some interesting characteristics of the segment:

  • Seniors are the most impatient segment when it comes to wanting a fast online answer. While 57% of all online consumers say they will abandon their purchase online if they can’t get a fast answer, 66% of seniors will click away if their needs aren’t met.
  • Seniors are also the least self-reliant segment when it comes to online customer service. While 36% of all online consumers say they strongly prefer to find answers online rather than contact the company via phone or email, only 22% of online seniors share this attitude.
  • This attitude underlies an interesting behavior in the senior segment – compared to overall US consumers, seniors are less likely to use FAQ’s, help section or keyword site search.

But here is the most interesting part of this data: the assumption that the senior segment would be less likely to use “newer” forms of online customer service is faulty. There is no difference in usage for click-to-chat, screen sharing, virtual agent or click-to-call between seniors versus all online consumers.

The data also takes us to some important insight on implementation: the senior segment tells us they are less interested in using some of these newer technologies, most notably, click-to-chat and virtual agents. This suggests that a lack of familiarity with chat and avatars inhibits interest.

But interest and usage are not the same. eBusiness professionals can inspire usage if the touch point is introduced at the right time in the right way. eBusiness professionals should consider the following  best practices to encourage senior adoption of live help and virtual agents:

  • Imagery matters. Imagery should be consistent with the technology. For example, the icon for click-to-call will be most effective if it shows an operator speaking on the phone.
  • Provide an explanation of the technology. For example, PayPal’s virtual agent introduction screen begins with “Hello, I’m Sarah and I’m here to answer your questions about PayPal. Even though I’d like to be a real person, I’m not. I’m programmed to answer your questions. How can I help you?”
  • Incorporate a description of the technology into the design element. For example “Chat live with a product specialist” conveys the what and who.
  • Put your security information upfront. Be explicit about your security and about information that consumers should not share (ie credit card information, etc)