Study: Consumer Preferences for Resolving Support Issues In 2022

By Yext

Nov 28, 2022

4 min

The pandemic years caused consumers to turn to the internet in new ways, and the effects of that shift appear set to endure: relying on digital channels (and mobile in particular) has become second nature for most people.

That expectation extends to customer support. Even before the pandemic, consumers were already forming preferences for resolving their support issues, a phenomenon that has only intensified — and last year, we launched our first Yext support survey to study it. We found that customers preferred to self-serve online when they had issues or questions to raise with a business — and that companies stood to lose business when digital means of contacting support or finding answers weren't up to par.

One year later, we wanted to take another look at consumer preferences for support and see how businesses' offerings measure up. What's changed — and what hasn't? Read on to see the top 5 takeaways from our 2022 survey.*

Theme #1: Customers overwhelmingly like to solve their own problems

Our primary finding from 2021 is still true: a significant majority of consumers prefer to self-serve by finding answers to their questions online.

  • 59% say that they would rather find information on their own rather than having to contact the company for support

  • 85% say this is "fairly important" to "very important" to them**

Theme #2: …But they only really trust a big search engine to help them — though first party site search is gaining ground on live agents and chatbots as the secondary option
  • Search engines were the preferred choice for help finding answers (39% of respondents, +20% from 2021)

  • 22% prefer using a company's own search capability (+8% from 2021), and 18% prefer calling customer service (-7% from 2021), showing an increasing preference for the website over the phone call.

  • Website navigation (8%), live agent chat (7%), and chatbot (2%) are the least favored options, as customers find them less and less helpful and efficient. This could likely be a result of decreasing customer patience: customers want immediate answers to their questions, and they are less willing to use channels that they think might take more time than direct search (phone calls, website navigation, etc.)

Some additional helpful context here: when given just two options to choose from, most people (63%) prefer a "Company's help site" to a "Search engine (Google, Bing, etc.)" To reconcile this with the prior questions responses, the best explanation is that most people would like to use a company site, but often find it more efficient to search Google.

The takeaway: businesses have some work to do when it comes to delivering a search experience on-site that meets customers' needs. More on this below.

Theme #3: Customers trust answers from company’s websites — but site search has room to grow

Responses indicate that consumers are turning to site search on a company's website more often than they did a year ago. Unfortunately, they are more likely to be frustrated by that experience.

  • 85% of respondents are willing to trust an answer from a company's website — 12% more than a search engine and 35% more than a blog or third party website

  • Most people use site search at least once a month (61%), which is up 15% from 2021

  • ...but have become frustrated by site search (63% said they have, +2% from 2021)**

Theme #4: Businesses can — and should — improve site search by making it smarter and more actionable
  • 64% of respondents say site search typically does not understand their question and 52% say it delivers unrelated results (in a "check-all-that-apply" survey question)

  • Most respondents (48%) thought companies were not doing enough to improve the search function on their site, versus the right amount (22%), or more than enough (16%)

Respondents also expressed that the "ability to understand natural phrases" is the most important feature of site search — indicating that businesses can deliver a better search (and support) experience by investing in AI-powered site search that understands natural language.

Theme #5: Businesses that help customers solve their problems with great search on their help site will see rewards in loyalty, sales
  • 89% of the respondents are at least "somewhat likely" to go straight to a company's help site the next time they have an issue — if the search function there can provide them with direct answers to their questions

  • Similarly, 85% would trust that company — and 84% would be likely to buy a product or service from that company

  • But on the flip side, if a company's help site failed to answer their questions or resolve their problems, most respondents would choose a more costly channel (53%, -15% from 2021), 35% (+14% from 2021) would go directly to an external channel like a search engine or competitor, and 11% would self serve in another low-cost way, like navigate the site or click on a chatbot.

One important thing to note: a year ago customers were more willing to give the company another chance to solve their problem, albeit in a higher cost manner. Now, they are much quicker to hit a search engine — meaning that businesses lose them from their ecosystem altogether.

The key takeaway? Consumers want more independence, and they are more interested in site search on a help site to solve their problems than they were just one year ago. Businesses can only benefit from granting that freedom to address their support issues — as long as it's effective. If not, they risk losing them to a search engine or competitor more quickly than ever. Investing in your business's website search is a core part of the support experience — and one that's costly to get wrong.

Click here to learn more.

*Yext surveyed 1,500+ consumers across all genders and ages (18-99) in the US in September 2022.

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