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Study: Online Transaction Gaffes Push Users Into Rivals’ Arms

A full 88% of online customers have experienced problems completing transactions. Many admitted in a survey that it makes them wonder if companies can handle security any better.

More than 90 percent of online consumers who said they would abandon transactions or turn to competitors after encountering completion problems said they question companies' ability to keep private data secure.

That's according to results released Monday from a Harris Interactive poll that suggests online transaction failures can wreak havoc on e-business. Forty percent of online consumers said they would abandon transactions entirely or turn to competitors, according to the second annual study of consumer transaction experiences with shopping, banking, travel and insurance Web sites.

The Harris poll found that 88 percent of online customers experienced problems with online transactions. Based on Forrester Research projections that consumers will spend $201 billion online this year and drive a 14 percent annual growth rate, TeaLeaf said that could affect 4.5 percent of all online transactions, or $60 billion worth of business through 2010.

TeaLeaf funded the study, which polled 2,790 U.S. adults from August 29 through August 31. TeaLeaf provides solutions for managing online customer experiences. The privately-held San Francisco company says that its CX family of solutions provides enterprise-wide visibility into every user's unique interaction.

"Forty percent of people will abandon a transaction and go to," TeaLeaf CEO Rebecca Ward said during a recent interview.

The survey showed that the number of adults shopping online grew to 66 percent this year, up from 62 percent in 2005, but consumer intolerance of poor online service is rising too, according to the survey. Eighty-five percent of respondents said they expect to experience the same level of service online as they receive offline. That's up from 82 percent who said they held those expectations last year.

"More people are going online and their expectations are higher," TeaLeaf Vice President of Marketing and Strategy Geoff Galat said during a recent interview.

Customers reported frustration due to incurring late fees after a Web site failed to process payments and from entering all of their information before a Web site malfunction forced them to begin again. They also reported being stuck in endless loops that will not allow them to complete transactions and uncertain whether transactions -- like airline tickets -- were processed after they received an error message.

Ninety-one percent of online consumers who experienced problems with transactions said they would be at least somewhat likely to question a company's ability to keep their private data secure if they had any problems completing an online transaction with the company.

Since Website security (26 percent) and ease of completing a transaction (22 percent) rated highest as factors contributing to people's positive experiences with online transactions, TeaLeaf points out that poor Web service can hurt brands.

"Even self-service requires service," Galat said, adding that TeaLeaf's solutions can provide customers service representatives on the phone with detailed information they need to assist customers who experience Web site problems. The solutions can also help companies quickly identify system-wide problems.

TeaLeaf states that Web site errors can undermine the loyalty that companies try to build through customer rewards programs. Twice as many consumers who booked travel accommodations online in the past year (94 percent) rated problem-free transactions as more important than loyalty and rewards programs (41 percent).

Forty-one percent of consumers who said they would turn immediately and permanently to a competitor said they would do so if they detected inaccurate or missing information on the Web site. Thirty-six percent said they would do so if they became stuck in an endless loop; 37 percent of those who would choose a competitor would flee if they had difficulty navigating a Web site; and 25 percent said they would leave if they were kicked off a page automatically.

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