Over complicated call management systems, emails that take an age to get a response and a desire for immediate information is driving consumers online to find the answer to their queries – and to a competitor’s website if they can’t. These are some of the findings of an independent survey.

Fuelled by social media and the success of smartphone apps that make finding information faster than ever before, customers are demanding the same interactive experience from their favourite brands online. 96% of respondents visit a company website first to find an answer to their queries.

However, organisations that have not optimised the customer online experience may find themselves losing business. Crucially, 89% would definitely (26%) or possibly (63%) buy from a competitor if they could not get their queries answered online.

Over 90% of people in the survey said they wanted to access information immediately. Unfortunately for businesses well over half the people found the website’s search facilities and FAQs sadly lacking.

When you consider that 74% said they were more likely to change their mind about a purchase of a product or service after conducting a web search, it’s clear that many organisations are missing out by not providing an adequate service to their customers online.

Three out of four consumers agreed that having an interactive online help facility to enable them to get information or a response immediately would make a big difference in their decision to use to that company. 81% of people said they would engage with an online virtual assistant if it reduced their waiting time. Nearly a third of respondents had already used a virtual assistant and 70% found it helpful.

Currently few consumers are having a good experience with customer support via the web, phone or email. Nearly 80% reported that the length on call pick-up or the wait to get through to the right department was less than good when telephoning a company.

Email fared only slightly better with over 65% complaining about the time taken to respond to questions and the lack of signposting to other help options.

Overall the survey highlights the consumers need for instant information and their readiness to go online to find it. But when they get there, they have high expectations as to how easily it should be found and have no problem switching to another company if they can provide the answer.

However, consumers also welcome the use of newer technologies that provide a more interactive experience and improve the speed and accuracy of obtaining the information they require.