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When it comes to the holidays, surprises should be left to the gifts, not the delivery speed of products you order online. That’s why we tested the top 25 Internet Retailers for standard delivery speed. These are the same 25 retailers that we studied in the 2011 Cyber Monday Customer Service Study.
We ordered several products from each of the top retailers via standard shipping to various parts of the country over the last few weeks to test how long it took for the items to arrive.
Who was the fastest, and who was the slowest?
Some key highlights from the study include:
Does the speed of delivery depend on what part of the country you’re in?
Turns out that the average delivery speed for standard shipping is slightly faster for those of you on the east coast (another east coast bias?).
Wishing everyone a no-surprises, hassle-free, speedy standard shipping holiday!
With the holiday shopping season about to kick into high gear on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we have evaluated the Internet’s top 25 retailers to see which ones are going the extra mile to provide shoppers with the best online shopping experience.
Retailers are providing customer service “extras” like free shipping, free gift wrapping, and 24/7 call support. Due to little differentiation among retailers when it comes to pricing and deals, these “extras” are more important than ever in helping shoppers decide where they should spend their hard-earned bucks.
The highlights, by the numbers:
Top holiday retailers included in this analysis
Retailers with free shipping on all orders: Apple.com, BestBuy.com, Dell.com, HPshopping.com, LLBean.com, NewEgg.com, Nordstrom.com, Walmart.com, and Zappos.com
Sites that allow in-store pick up for items purchased online: BestBuy.com, ToysRus.com, Walmart.com, Target.com, Apple.com, LLBean.com, Nordstrom.com, Sears.com, and JCPenney.com
Retailers that provide 24/7 call support: Zappos.com, BestBuy.com, ToysRus.com, VictoriaSecret.com, Williams-Sonoma.com, and JCPenney.com
We’ll be updating our guides throughout the holiday season so be sure check back in to see which retailers are going the “Extra Mile.” Happy holiday shopping!
In addition to maintaining our own blog, we also get inspiration from our friends in the customer service space. Though we specialize in evaluating the customer support of online retailers, the following are the most common blogs you can hear us referencing by the office
kegerator water cooler (in no particular order):
The gorilla resource of all things consumer-related, The Consumerist has to be on our top 7 blogs. Our most recent favorite shock story? How about when the Austrian airline forced passengers to pay up $31,500 for airplane fuel or get off the plane?!
Perhaps the epitome of amazing customer service, Zappos.com’s has a fashion blog, CEO/COO blog, and a Zappos Family blog to name a few. We found the video post of their celebration of 11.11.11 absolutely adorable!
Tim Sanchez maintains this blog that could get even the busiest person thinking about their customers’ experiences. While there are public posts roughly once per month, there is also an eBook if you sign up.
This investigative blog never fails to deliver an answer nor a laugh. Opting to snail mail companies about their wacky policies from why a DIRECTV customer must pay for DIRECTV on a plane to whether or not Greek yogurt really Greek, the anonymous writer exposes the very core competency of the customer care of big brands.
“Consumed by the pursuit of delightful service,” Barry Dalton hits the nail on the head every time with thought-provoking posts surrounding his day-to-day experiences.
You can tell from the titles of his books The Amazement Revolution: Seven Customer Service Strategies to Create an Amazing Customer (and Employee) Experience and The Cult of the Customer: Create an Amazing Customer Experience That Turns Satisfied Customers Into Customer Evangelists that Shep Hyken specializes in telling business how to achieve customer loyalty. Shep’s blog reveals just as much powerful advice.
In a grand display of shameless self-promotion, we must say our own blog is one of our top favorite blogs. On our blog you can find recent studies on airline call hold times during Hurricane Irene and where to buy the iPhone 4S online. Every once in a while, we’ll post ground-breaking, profound studies like how we would plan a $10 million Kardashian-style wedding.
Speaking of, is there anything you would like to see on our blog that we don’t do already? Anything you’d like to see more (or less) of?
Buying a Halloween costume at the last minute can be a horrifying experience. Long lines, limited selections, and costumes bearing deodorant stains of prior shoppers are not exactly things to get excited about.
With Halloween right around the corner, don’t settle for the last few costumes at your local store. Bigger, better selections, with wallet-friendly shipping and returns policies can be found online. Awesome online features like 360 degree videos and accessory checklists help ensure you find the perfect costume for the big day.
To help procrastinators avoid the crowds and look ghastly good on Halloween, STELLAService evaluated 18 of the top “big-box” and specialty retailers online and found that features like free exchanges and 24/7 call support were a treat, while some return policies were more of a trick. Check out our findings below, and be sure to order soon so your package arrives before the big costume contest!
Amazon.com bests the rest for its shipping and returns policies, but even more relevant is its super smart product recommendation engine. Below is a great example of how easy it is to add a Captain America shield, boot covers, and gloves with the standard costume to ensure you get the full package.
A Jack Sparrow costume without the dreads, pistol, and sword might as well be just….well, a sparrow. CostumeExpress.com has a “complete the look” list to make sure the Sparrow ensemble doesn’t lack its iconic earrings and weapons. As with BuyCostumes.com, there are free exchanges, and 360 degree product videos of models in costumes ensure you know exactly what you’re buying.
“How does my butt look in this hoop skirt?” Not to worry, since BuyCostumes.com also has a 360 degree video of most costumes. If you’re ghoulish about how your ensemble fits, they’ll even let you exchange it for free.
Whether you order today via standard shipping or lay down the dough for overnight delivery, there’s still time to get that perfect Halloween costume online.
First and foremost, Happy Customer Service Week! Regardless of your industry, it’s important to step back every once in a while to recognize the people who – day in and day out – help resolve customer problems and generally try to make life easier for all of us.
To that end, we found one company that has decided to commemorate Customer Service Week in the most ironic way we could image: by providing worse-than-normal customer service!
The customer care team at O.co (also known as Overstock.com) is taking some time off this week in honor of the quasi holiday. As a result, O.co customers are left “celebrating” Customer Service Week with longer call hold times and increased wait times to reach an agent via live chat, as warned by O.co’s Contact Customer Service page…
Don’t get us wrong – we wish O.co’s customer care team the best, and we think ALL great customer service professionals should be recognized and rewarded for their hard work. We just found it strange that a company would commemorate great customer service with, well…worse customer service.
I cannot see much reason in following the goings-on of 10 million dollar wedding ceremonies, but if such resources are to be spent on such a lavish event, you’d be crazy not to spend it at these 7 top-rated retailers.
1. For the ring: BlueNile.com, STELLAService Elite
It is not just Aron Ralston who has access to large rocks. BlueNile.com has a 20+ carat diamond that users can customize online, from the diamond shape and size to the setting and clarity. You can even choose the delivery date, then prepare your video camera to record the endless, totally deserved gawking.
2. For the groom’s and groomsmen’s suits: RalphLauren.com, STELLAService Excellent
While the bridesmaids will only wear their dresses once (contrary to popular belief, you can rarely shorten a bridesmaid’s dress and wear it again!), the groomsmen can wear their suits again and again without fear of being called out when the suit resurfaces on Facebook pictures. Who wants $3,000-$4,000 custom Zenga suits that look like grandpa’s when you can get impeccable suits and service from RalphLauren.com?
3. For the bride’s and bridesmaids’ dresses: JCrew.com, STELLAService Elite
JCrew.com has a specific wedding section on their site where you can view bridesmaids dresses in several colors – one dress (left) had 12 different color options! While you may not find a $25,000 wedding gown on there, you can find bridal dresses that are equally beautiful and glamorous.
4. For the accessories: Artbeads.com, STELLAService Elite
Not only does this site carry all the beads, rhinestones, and craft supplies for the perfect tiara or bracelet, but they have a blog post that shows how to make Kim Kardashian’s headpiece. I just saved you $2.5 Million!
5. For the ring bearer: Petco.com, STELLAService Elite
One thing that was unmemorable about the Kardashian wedding was the ring bearer. Kim’s 21-month old nephew reportedly struggled down the aisle to bear the bands of eternal love. Now here is your chance to one-up the wedding people won’t stop talking about - have an elephant or white horse walk down the aisle. While Petco.com doesn’t sell elephants nor horses, they sell the pooper scoopers to clean up behind them.
6. For the flowers: 1800Flowers.com, STELLAService Elite
With perhaps the easiest number to remember (1800-FLOWERS), 1800Flowers.com can provide everything from exotic orchids to classic roses.
7. For the favors: Favorfavor.com, STELLAService Excellent
So nice you got to say it twice. STELLAService Excellent retailer favorfavor.com has a “great selection, fast shipping, and reliable service all at the best prices on the web - GUARANTEED!” What more could you want? Oh, maybe customized heart-shaped Krispy Kreme donuts and cookies.
One of the conveniences of online shopping is not having to leave your house to retrieve the product. The same should go for returns. Therefore, it should not be surprising that an easy returns process is something online shoppers seek out. This is especially true when shoppers buy clothes and books, the top two products purchased online that are returned or exchanged.
However, last week, the United States Postal Service announced it was considering closing 3,653 municipal post offices. The post offices in consideration are located mostly in rural areas and their closure would affect hundreds of thousands of people that depend on their services.
Since an estimated 62% of online shoppers prefer to return products purchased online via the mail instead of to the brick-and-mortar store (when a brick-and-mortar store exists) the potential shut-down of thousands of post offices means it will be a whole lot more difficult to return a product for those people whose local post offices close. In the rural areas in which post offices were proposed to be shut down, people likely live further from the closest brick-and-mortar version of their favorite retailer than the second-closest post office.
Thankfully, online shoppers may benefit from this news if online retailers react accordingly so as to maintain an easy returns process. Shoppers may start demanding that companies provide more accurate product descriptions and images to prevent the need for a return in the first place. A second feature from which consumers would benefit is if retailers more frequently provide a prepaid USPS, FedEx, or UPS labels inside the original package, in case of a return. Who doesn’t love a prepaid label to avoid a trip to the post office and to prevent a 20 minute wait in that dreaded line?
STELLAService elite retailer Zappos provides on their site free return labels with a few clicks of a mouse, and they won’t even deduct it from your refund! Staples.com, another Elite retailer, will show up at your doorstep to pick up your return for no extra charge. Savvy shoppers also love UrbanOutfitters.com‘s free prepaid return label provided with the original shipment.
What are some other features you look for in a returns policy? I always like a few free yours-to-keep-even-if-you-return-the-rest samples in any package I get, except for the time I got deodorant, shampoo, AND perfume samples…trying to tell me something, Internet?!
I’m not sure how old I will be until I start feeling totally comfortable buying my undergarments in-person. I can only imagine how men must feel buying these kinds of presents!
It is no surprise then that VictoriasSecret.com has been the highest in sales for the Apparel/Accessories category the past two years, as ranked by Internet Retailer. Women need bras, and men know where they like to get them, thanks to the brand’s famous models featured in their free catalog and annual runway show.
However, there is a brand that really stands out for its customer service excellence. The Leonisa brand, which originates in Latin America, is the
Ricky Martin Shakira Enrique Iglesias of over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders (or “sobre los hombros tenedor de rocas” – though that phrase isn’t quite as catchy in Spanish.)
Naturally, Leonisa.com is seamlessly navigable in both Spanish and English. Unsure if your flopper stoppers will fit? Use the return address label provided with the packaging to easily exchange or return your item. Our mystery shoppers were impressed with the incredibly fast turnaround from the date they returned their undergarments until they received a refund on their credit card.
What if you want to wait before testing your britches? Leonisa.com boasts a generous 60-day return policy. So long as you return them new and with tags attached, you will receive a refund.
Are you a gentleman who wishes there was something like this for men? Wish no more, because Leonisa offers men’s underthings too.
Leonisa always has free shipping for orders over $50, but through 7/25 there is no order minimum at all, so there’s no better time to get all the support you need.
In NYC, I have grown to expect the expensive costs of dining-out, entertainment, and rent, but one thing I do not have to splurge on is flowers. A few days ago, I was buying flowers for Mother’s Day and there were two bodegas diagonally across the street from one another. Each store had your usual roses dyed in unnatural colors, pre-mixed bouquets, and chicken-scratch price tags. A quick glance revealed the prices were nearly identical as well.
So how do I decide from which bodega to purchase the flowers?
Idea 1: Bargain shop for the cheapest flowers. Count stems, petals, etc. to make sure I’m getting the best deal. I should save on something that’s going to die in a few days anyway, right? Come to the conclusion that price is a wash (also, Mom might be reading and I don’t want her to think price matters when it comes to her!)
Idea 2: Choose the bodega with the coolest, most unique-looking flowers. A bunch of electric blue orchids caught my eye, as did a spiky, artichoke-looking plant (which reminds me-whoever picked up an artichoke and decided it was something humans should eat deserves a culinary Nobel Prize). Decide neon-colored hydrangeas might look cool but Mom might disagree.
Idea 3: Determine which store has the best quality flowers. Realize quality amongst the two bodegas is nearly identical with the minimal flower knowledge I possess.
Idea 4: Select the bodega with the shortest line. Spend 30 seconds waffeling about which line is the shortest. Conclude time spent waffeling is longer than the little time I’d wait at either bodega.
The clerk of bodega A recommended potted tulips since I could put them on the table of the brunch I was attending. He said the flowers would continue to bloom over the next few days and he told me the suggested sunlight exposure and how often they should be watered. This helped make my decision and I arrived at the restaurant armed with not only a floral gift, but also knowledge of how to take care of the botanical flair.
In my flower excursion, the main service component that was key to my decision was the power of knowledge that the bodega clerk shared with me. He wasn’t pushy in any way and I wouldn’t even consider him a salesman, but rather a customer service-oriented possessor of floral knowledge that enabled him to help me make an informed purchase decision.
Do you ever pick up floral knowledge along with your bodega flowers? Or do you prefer your local florist?