Survey: Online holiday shoppers have supply chain concerns

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Customers are worried about holiday gifts arriving on time.

Retailers are not the only ones stressed over ongoing supply chain disruptions this holiday season.

According to the “Holiday Shopping Experience Report,” a new consumer and customer service worker survey from customer communications platform Intercom, 77% of surveyed consumers worry they will have issues buying gifts online this year. This is causing an uptick in customer inquiries about delivery delays, product availability and returns, and also straining customer service teams as more than half (52%) of surveyed customer service reps to consider leaving their job due to the stress of meeting customer expectations.

And despite a push from retailers to shop early, only 14% of consumers report they are mostly done with their holiday shopping.

The biggest online shopping concerns reported by surveyed consumers were gifts not arriving on time (45%) being more expensive this year than expected (42%), or not being available at all (33%). Almost two-thirds (64%) reported they have had items arrive later than promised in the past six months.

Looking at customer service trends, the survey found that three in 10 consumers say they have contacted customer support more often this year than in the past, and nearly half (45%) report recent customer service interactions have been frustrating.

Meanwhile, nearly half (49%) of surveyed customer service reps have received more inquiries in the past few months compared to the same period last year, and 62% report customer expectations and demands have increased as well.

More than six in 10 (61%) surveyed consumers admit they are not very confident issues will be resolved to their satisfaction. About the same percentage of customer service reps (60%) believe it is harder than ever to fully resolve customer issues.

Almost all (94%) consumers say they expect companies to let them know of delays without having to ask about them. And 79% want alerts about delays and backorders before they checkout or make a purchase. In addition to knowing about issues in advance, more than half of surveyed consumers also want customer service that is fast (60%), friendly (57%) and available when they need it (53%).

Other interesting findings from surveyed customer service reps include:

  • Half (52%) of customer service reps say they have considered leaving their job.
  • 76% say they are concerned their company doesn't have enough customer service representatives to handle customer inquiries this holiday season.
  • 38% of customer service reps say their company is not doing enough to set customer expectations on item availability and delivery times.

[Read more: Study: 98% of retailers having supply chain issues; will last beyond 2022]

"Companies want to do right by their customers, but support teams are always stretched during this time of year and the global supply chain issues are causing an even greater strain for both the support teams and the consumers they're supporting," said Des Traynor, co-founder and chief strategy officer, Intercom. "This is a make-or-break time for businesses to avoid disappointing their customers, to not only proactively communicate with customers about any challenges in fulfillment but also to earn their trust, and equip support teams with the tools necessary to lessen their burden."

Intercom commissioned Wakefield Research to conduct a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers and 500 U.S. customer service workers in November 2021.