NEW YORK: Consumers have a more positive impression of a brand that is able to offer real-time help at critical moments but the window of opportunity in these situations is little over one minute, according to new research.

For its Connecting with Customers report, LivePerson, a provider of digital engagement solutions, carried out 6,054 online interviews across Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and USA with people making an online purchase at least once a month.

It found that 69% were more likely to be loyal to a brand that provided live, human assistance at vital moments, while 82% indicated that their perception of a brand improved when live chat was available. And almost half (45%) said they would abandon a purchase if it wasn't possible to communicate with a company representative via live chat if they had a question or problem.

But consumers expected access to real-time help within just 76 seconds, before they gave up the site or reverted to email.

"The digital era is massively de-personalizing, so anytime brands can engage their customers with a more personalized, human touch, it makes a meaningful difference," said Anurag Wadehra, chief marketing officer at LivePerson.

The report suggested that as consumers spend more time communicating with brands online – and 19% of consumers spend half their shopping outlay online – so digital engagement tools like live chat become increasingly essential to brand loyalty.

In addition to issues around loyalty and speed of response, the research highlighted those moments when consumers were most likely to want help. These were when they had a specific question about a product or service they wanted to buy (42%), followed by the moment of purchase, with 35% of respondents saying that they needed help or support at this stage.

And after purchase, 35% of consumers wanted access to help or support if they had a problem with the product after they received it.

Perhaps a more basic problem was that half of respondents said they found websites difficult to navigate, while one third struggled to find customer service.

The need for brands to address this situation was emphasised by Christina Stanfield, Senior Director of Strategy at Interbrand New York, who, contributing to a discussion on Generation Y on Break Thru Radio, said: "The bar of expectation on how intuitive, easy, engaging, human customer service and digital interactions must be is higher than ever before."

Data sourced from PR Newswire, Break Thru Radio; additional content by Warc staff