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To celebrate the New Year, we thought we’d share some of our favorite new TV commercials, which of course poke fun at embarrassingly bad customer service. You think companies are starting to get a clue that great customer service is no longer just a “nice to have”…?
These commercials were all posted to YouTube within the last few weeks — enjoy!
And an update recommended by our friends at GetHuman.com, a recently released DIRECTV commercial:
After all the anticipation and waiting, you’ve finally opened your holiday gift and…of course, it’s not the right [size/color/fit/brand/model/age-group/etc]. Like many of us, you’re now faced with the ultimate question: what to do about returns, exchanges or refunds.
Since we at STELLAService knew you’d ask, we went ahead and road-tested the top 25 largest online retailers to see which ones have the most customer-friendly returns and refund processes (we tested the same 25 retailers that we evaluated in the 2011 Cyber Monday Customer Service Study).
As part of this assessment, we ordered and returned (via USPS standard ground) several products from each retailer to various parts of the country over the last few weeks (understanding it may be even tougher during the days and weeks after Christmas). Your return and refund experience, as well as the policies you’re up against, will vary depending on where and when the gifter ordered your present.
Several top retailers extended their normal return windows to account for the large number of people who will need to initiate returns or refunds over the next few weeks. If retailers can extend their policies during the holidays, can’t they just leave them extended during the rest of the year?
It’s also worth noting the varying refund processing times. While retailers often blame banks for slow refunds, our data suggests that the companies’ return processing cycle (i.e. the time to process a return and initiate a refund after the returned product reaches their warehouse) has a lot to do with how quick the retailers are in getting you your money back. As usual, some companies go out of their way to make life easier and better for their customers, and some don’t.
Are you wondering how the top online retailers rank after taking into account all of the major customer service metrics during the holidays? So are we…stay tuned!
As a result of evaluating the service of thousands of online retailers – some of them with “unfriendly” return policies – we were unfortunately left with hundreds of random products at the end of 2011.
As opposed to auctioning off these products on eBay or otherwise disposing of them, we decided to turn the negative situation into a positive one by giving away the items to those in need. Check it out!
Happy holidays from all of us at STELLAService!
Note: this is the third in a three part series looking at the customer service performance of the top 25 online retailers during the 2011 Black Friday through Cyber Monday weekend. View Part 1 (Phone Support) and Part 2 (Email Support) for a complete view on how the largest online retailers cared for customers during the big shopping holiday.
Many online shoppers now prefer to engage with companies via live chat. It’s (supposedly) quick, easy and convenient. According to a 1,000 person consumer survey by the E-Tailing Group and Bold Software, one in five online shoppers select live chat as their preferred method of communication with a retailer. With 20% of shoppers preferring to use live chat, you’d think that most – if not all – of the largest online retailers offer this as a communication channel for shoppers.
We were curious to see which of the 25 largest online retailers offer this service channel, and here’s what we found:
First, it’s amazing how many of these retailers (44%) don’t offer the “preferred method” of customer support to 20% of online shoppers. Second, if you visit some of the retailers’ sites who are noted above as having live chat and don’t see a link for chat, the site is probably waiting for you to take some kind of action to trigger the live chat functionality. This kind of “dynamic” live chat functionality does not help the one-in-five online shoppers who prefer live chat, since they may not take the necessary actions on the website to generate the live chat window and thus will not be able to initiate a live chat when they want.
In addition, for the sites offering live chat we stress-tested how long it took for online shoppers to: (1) receive a notification that a live agent was present and ready to assist; and (2) receive an answer to the question we asked each live chat agent.
We found that the mass merchants performed the best in this study, and below are the top three performers and their results:
With so may products and varying shipping, returns and other policies, it is appropriate that some of these very large online retailers are delivering such a highly responsive and helpful live chat service.
Do you think it should be standard for all of the top online merchants to offer live chat?
Did you leverage live chat with any of the top 25 retailers this weekend? If so, what was your experience like?
Methodology: Black Friday through Cyber Monday data was collected by initiating a live chat with each retailer five (5) times each day over a four day period, from Friday November 25th to Monday November 28th. Live chat sessions were initiated at random during the following time-blocks to generate measurements of service performance that have high reliability and construct validity: 8:00 -11:30am EST; 11:30 – 2:00pm EST; 2:00 – 5:00pm EST; 5:00 – 8:00pm EST; 8:00 – 11:00pm EST. Given the dynamic nature of live chat (i.e. it only becomes available when certain actions are taken by the user), we followed a consistent process by visiting the same number of pages, and staying on each website for the same amount of time, for each of the 25 retailers.
Note: this is the second in a three part series looking at the customer service performance of the top 25 online retailers during the 2011 Black Friday through Cyber Monday weekend. View Part 1 (Phone Support) and Part 3 (Live Chat Support) for a complete view on how the largest online retailers cared for customers during the big shopping holiday.
According to Forrester, 55% of online shoppers use email when attempting to solve a customer service problem. Most consumers expect relatively quick responses to email inquiries. In fact, if you’re shopping online and have a question, what’s the point of sending an email if the company doesn’t get back to you for days? The product, special deal or issue in question may no longer be relevant by the time you get a reply.
To give shoppers a better idea of which stores plan to keep you in the loop and which stores are likely to dismiss your message into the email abyss as you do your online holiday shopping, STELLAService is providing an unprecedented look at the email response rates of the largest online retailers.
While it might seem obvious that retailers would (or should) reply to all emails sent to them by shoppers with questions, it’s far from reality!
These numbers are most likely eye-opening for many people, but they probably resonate when you think back to prior experiences. Did you email any of the large online retailers over the weekend? If so, did they get back to you within a day?
Methodology: Baseline data was collected by emailing each retailer each day (336 total emails) over a 14 day period, from November 1st through November 14th, asking general customer service questions in each email (product questions, shipping or returns information, etc). Black Friday through Sunday data was collected by emailing each retailer four (4) times each day over a three day period, from Friday November 25th to Sunday November 27th. Emails were placed at random during the following time-blocks to generate measurements of service performance that have high reliability and construct validity: 8:00 -11:30am EST; 11:30 – 2:00pm EST; 2:00 – 5:00pm EST; 5:00 – 8:00pm EST; 8:00 – 11:00pm EST.
Note: this is the first in a three part series looking at the customer service performance of the top 25 online retailers during the 2011 Black Friday through Cyber Monday weekend. View Part 2 (Email Support) and Part 3 (Live Chat Support) for a complete view on how the largest online retailers cared for customers during the big shopping holiday.
Despite the many ways consumers can connect with a company for customer service, the telephone is still the most widely used customer service channel for online shoppers. According to Forrester, 69% of online consumers use the phone when seeking customer service help (followed by 55% who use email).
As a result, we think online shoppers should be especially aware of the findings from our 2011 Cyber Monday Customer Service study. For the first time, STELLAService is providing an unprecedented inside look at which stores provide joyful customer service during the holidays, and which stores are likely to deliver a full-serving of slow, frustrating support as you do your online holiday shopping.
We found some of the numbers especially interesting:
Did you place calls to any of these retailers over the weekend? If so, what was your experience like?
Methodology: Baseline data was collected by calling each retailer each day (350 total calls) over a 14 day period, from November 1st through November 14th, asking general customer service questions on each call (product questions, shipping or returns information, etc). Black Friday through Cyber Monday data was collected by calling each retailer five (5) times each day over a four day period, from November 25th to November 28th. Calls were placed at random during the following time-blocks to generate measurements of service performance that have high reliability and construct validity: 8:00 -11:30am EST; 11:30 – 2:00pm EST; 2:00 – 5:00pm EST; 5:00 – 8:00pm EST; 8:00 – 11:00pm EST.
Traveling during Thanksgiving is stressful enough, so there’s nothing worse than the added frustration of a bad customer service experience on your flight out of town. To give you a glimpse at which airlines are going the extra mile to make things smoother and faster for travelers this week, we decided to stress test each carrier’s call support…and we found some surprising results!
STELLAService evaluated the 13 largest airlines (as reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation) to uncover which were the quickest at answering customer concerns over the phone ahead of the big travel weekend.
While most of the airlines seem well-prepared to handle the holiday rush, the surprise from our study was obviously Virgin America, with an average wait of over 24 minutes to reach a live representative. This figure is also understated since we capped the maximum hold time at 30 minutes, and most of the Virgin America calls hit that threshold.
The obvious question is this: why would Virgin America transition its sales and customer service platform to a new system so close to one of the busiest travel days of the year? It has created a very unusual sight on Twitter and other social commenting platforms, with travelers complaining about the airline’s service instead of praising it (Virgin America is known for its great service – sometimes even in the same conversation as Zappos!). The Company’s CEO has made a public apology, stating that they’re working to resolve the issues as fast as they can.
Have your weekend travels begun? If you’re flying to your Turkey Day destination, what has the customer service experience been like so far, and which Airline did you fly?
————————————————————————–Methodology details: Through 390 calls to the airlines over a five day period, STELLAService engaged each airline five times per day from November 16th through November 21st, asking general customer service questions on each call (flight status, bag fees, website questions, etc). Calls were placed at random during the following time-blocks to generate measurements of service performance that have high reliability and construct validity: 8:00 -11:30am EST;; 11:30 – 2:00pm EST; 2:00 – 5:00pm EST; 5:00 – 8:00pm EST; 8:00 – 11:00pm EST.
In case you missed the announcement last week, I’m happy to share the news that STELLAService has raised an additional $5 million in funding to keep you in the know when it comes to companies with great (and not so great) customer service.
The funding was co-led by Battery Ventures and DFJ Gotham Ventures and also included RRE Ventures, Forerunner Ventures, and angels Jay Weintraub and Will Thomas. We’re thrilled to have such a terrific, top-tier group of investors behind us.
It’s been an amazing eight months since we announced our first round of funding. Our team has worked around the clock to produce customer service ratings and data on thousands of companies, and we hope you’ve been able to benefit from the guidance and direction our customer service analysts (i.e. “mystery shoppers on steroids”) have allowed us to provide. Our data and insights have been featured in nearly every major media outlet, from Forbes to NBC, in an effort to get the message out around the service performance of America’s leading companies – we believe every online consumer will benefit as a result.
Meanwhile, the most customer-focused businesses are proudly displaying the STELLAService seal, which has rapidly become the Web’s most trusted signal of sites with great service. From larger businesses like 1800Contacts to smaller, up-and-coming stores like Stock ‘N Go, companies are deriving significant value in displaying the seal as it remains the only objective, meaningful signal that separates their businesses from the herd of competitors who don’t go the extra mile for customers (it should be noted that more than half of the retailers we evaluate do not make the cut to display this award).
We’re only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the information and data we plan to make available on the service quality of each company. This new round of funding will help us accelerate the launch of some exciting new features and products that will give you an even closer, more detailed view of the service performance of each business. Stay tuned on our blog, Twitter and Facebook page for the latest.
Everything we do at STELLA is based around our mission to create a world with better customer service. It’s a simple mission, as good customer service is something all of us need and deserve. I’m proud to be working with such an awesome team, and none of us could be more excited to continue full-steam-ahead on this enormous opportunity.
Onward and upward!
Watching out for consumers, Asa asks STELLAService about buying a Halloween costume online and how to identify the best sites when it comes to customer service.
Check out our previous post if you’re still in the market for a Halloween costume and don’t have time to get to a store…just a couple days left, so make sure you purchase from the best!
After an extensive evaluation of all online retailers who (seemingly) sell iPhones, as well as a deep dive into the online features, policies and customer service performance of the “authorized” online stores to sell the iPhone, we found there’s no reason to shop anywhere else but Apple.com for the new iPhone 4S.
Below are the details of our findings:
With lines for buying the iPhone 4S expected to wrap around city blocks (even internationally already!), and with no guarantees you will even get the new phone after waiting hours on line, you’re far better off purchasing the iPhone 4S over the Web from the comfort of your own home (or wherever you might be).
Since the price of the phone is the same across all online sellers, it’s a no-brainer to buy from the online retailer with the best service. When it comes to the iPhone, there’s no site better than Apple.com.