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Ever been told to “Go Climb a Tree“? Well, we have and it’s quite rude. Unless you’re remarkably dense (or you’re a squirrel), being told to go climb a tree is something no online shopper should experience. With that in mind, why are so many retailers eschewing good customer service and essentially telling us to do just that?
Using data for the power of good, we’ve come up with some interesting customer service facts about the use of phone-trees and how it impacts retailer call hold times. Only 21 of the Internet’s top 100 retailers connect shoppers directly to a live agent. That list expands to 22 if we also include 1-800 CONTACTS, which falls just outside the top 100 at #101 (We’re especially impressed that a business that bears its customer service phone number as its name, which leads to even higher call volume, steers clear of an IVR to ensure the best possible experience for shoppers).
Unfortunately for shoppers, however, MOST OF THE INTERNET’S TOP RETAILERS require shoppers to strap on climbing shoes, chalk up their hands, and prepare to mount what is often times an arduous phone-tree (otherwise known as an IVR — Interactive Voice Response). Sadly, the odds of calling a retailer and being put directly in touch with a human being are out of your favor.
This inability to be directly connected with a human is more often than not accompanied by frustration. If you identify with this frustration, take solace, you have solidarity — turns out 71% of shoppers become extremely irritated when they cannot reach another human being on the phone. Even worse, 67% of those same people surveyed became so frustrated that they hung up the phone without resolving their issue at all. To make matters worse, we found that of the top 100 retailers, those who use an IVR have an average call hold time of one minute and fifty one seconds (1:51). Compare that to the fifty one second (0:51) average call hold time of retailers that do not use an IVR, and you can definitely pick up a trend.
So what can you do to help ensure that the first thing you speak to is a human and not HAL (or any other computer system for that matter)? Our ratings are a pretty solid indicator. Turns out, ten out of the top ten retailers with the shortest average hold times do not use phone-trees. Even better, those same ten retailers all achieved either STELLAService Elite or Excellent ratings.
(click below graph to enlarge to full-view)The above chart was updated in September 2011: Fingerhut.com, which was included in the original post, has since been excluded due to an insufficient sample size.
31% of the Internet’s top 100 retailers have call hold times under one minute. Out of that group, 90% are rated either Elite or Excellent. While average call hold time is by no means the be-all end-all when it comes to a retailer’s customer service, we think it’s an important indicator of the overall service you’re likely to receive. Take a look at our ratings. Although not every retailer who has earned a top rating will put you directly in touch with a human when you call them (or make you wait less than a minute), there are many that will; and there are even more that will provide you a terrific all-around customer experience!
We’ve all been there before. Caught off guard. Even shocked, in a good way.
It can be a little jolting when, after dialing the support number of a massive company, you get a live customer service representative (CSR) who’s ready to help you with whatever you need. Dare I say a “WOW” experience?
At STELLAService, we believe all businesses should aim to provide this kind of time-sensitive support for their customers. When it comes to questions, problems or issues, time is always of the essence. That’s why our methodology for ranking e-retailers has always taken phone and email response times into account when evaluating the overall online customer experience.
Today, we’re excited to continue sharing some of our customer service performance data with the public. Below are the top 10 average call hold times and email reply times of the largest 100 Internet retailers in the US as measured by InternetRetailer:
If you happen to be in the market for a new jacket or a new TV or a fresh new pair of sneakers, chances are that price and selection are nearly uniform across dozens of online stores. As a result, the speed to get someone on the phone or the wait to receive an email reply can make a big difference in who you decide to do business with.
SierraTradingPost.com confirmed its obsession with providing speedy service, delivering the shortest average call hold time of the top 100 retailers. On the other hand, Barnes and Noble (BN.com), which is currently in talks to be acquired, made callers wait the longest with an average call hold time of over 8 minutes.
In the case of emails, it’s fitting that OfficeDepot.com stood out as number one given most of its customers are business-minded people with limited tolerance for slow service. By contrast, be prepared to give CrateandBarrel.com nearly four days to respond via email if you have a question about those cool new wine glasses.
These data points can help consumers navigate the online shopping universe and discover where to buy if speedy follow-up service is an important factor. In the end, however, call hold times and email reply times are only two of the 350 measurements we take to evaluate the overall service experience of an online merchant. Check out our infographic to learn more about our comprehensive methodology and how STELLAService evaluates the online customer experience.
* Through 1200 calls, e-mails, and “mystery shopping” interactions, STELLAService engaged each business over multiple days and multiple times periods of the day to generate measurements of service performance that have high reliability and construct validity. For the phone support assessment, six phone calls were placed randomly to each Internet retailer, one during a specific time period throughout the business day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). One call was attempted on each day Monday-Thursday and each day of the weekend as well. For the email assessment, six e-mails were placed randomly to each online store, one during a specific time period throughout the business day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). One e-mail was sent on each day, Monday-Saturday.
They say you never want to see how your sausage is made. They’re probably right. But when it comes to the STELLAService evaluation, we think it’s important for people to know how it all goes down. We’re focused on bringing transparency to the world of online customer service, so it only makes sense for us to be as upfront as possible about how we go about evaluating the service performance of Internet retailers.
To that end, we’re excited to unveil our first ever infographic! Take a look at what, why and how we do what we do, and see what an e-retailer must really go through – and deliver on – in order to earn the STELLAService seal.