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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.
I recently requested an invitation to try out a brand new banking service from a Brooklyn, NY based startup called BankSimple. About a day after requesting an invite, I received the following email:
I’m (Name Redacted), a Customer Relations Representative at BankSimple. Thanks so much for requesting an invitation to try out our service! We’re still planning and testing, but we’ll begin opening up BankSimple soon.
In the meantime, though, I’d love to hear your story. I want to hear from you, personally, about what you want from a bank: your loves, hates, quibbles, desires, hopes, and dreams regarding your financial life. Really: what’s on your mind, and what are you hoping for from BankSimple? We’re committed to building the best service we possibly can, and the only way to do that is to know what you’re looking for. So, what’s up?
We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on– and get your insight into how we can make it better.
Thanks again. Hope to hear from you soon!
Given that I NEVER speak to anyone at my current bank, a personal email from BankSimple asking about my personal finances was very impressive. When I enrolled at my current account, I vividly remember salespeople trying to up-sell me on products and services I didn’t need, with little to no consultation. Contrast that to the tone of the above email which is thoughtful and considerate. With that in mind, I most definitely plan on responding. I have no idea what’s in store from BankSimple, but given this consultative email, I’m very excited to find out.
Since neither CNN nor Fox News covered it, we thought we’d break the sad news that BlueBee.com has officially closed its doors. We hate to see any e-commerce company serve up its final customer, but this one hit us particularly hard.
Earlier this week, one of our customer experience analysts attempted to return a product that was purchased from the e-retailer a few days ago. She visited the Web site in search of the return instructions but was greeted by this dispiriting message:
She then sent BlueBee.com an email and received the following response within 10 minutes:
Blue Bee is closed. We have no money, no website and no inventory. There is unfortunately nothing we can do for you at this point. I am very sorry. We have fought this economy as hard as we could, but we could not make it.
We are truly sorry.
As one of their final customers, we felt obliged to break this news. In remembrance, if you ever purchased from this store, feel free to share the details of your experience. RIP Blue Bee!
Some critics are talking about how the world of e-commerce lacks the personal experience of shopping in a store. Without being face to face, often times what we’re also missing is the relationships with the store employees.
Perhaps the difference is more noticeable for me. I grew up in a town where any franchise-style stores are banned to help preserve the town’s beauty. Sounds crazy right? I loved it. When you have go to a different Mom and Pop store for each thing you need, the store clerks get to know you. Even with big discount stores in the next town over, I chose to stay loyal to the Mom and Pop stores for the relationships I made and the way they made me feel. I’m sure you can think of a store that you go back to for the same reasons.
You know that one website where every time you sign on someone smiles at you? Oh yeah, that doesn’t exist (and would actually be kind of creepy). But one important gesture that websites can make to their customers is to get as close to a relationship as possible by making an effort to make them feel like you know them.
I recently read a blog post by Joe Rawlinson on returncustomer.com about how the most important word you can say to your customer is their name. It’s incredible how little things like that so often get overlooked yet are so incredibly easy to incorporate. Emails can automatically insert the customer’s name throughout the message. On the phone, CSR’s should make a point to use the customer’s name in the conversation and when saying thank you and goodbye.
At the heart of things, the simplest additions by e-retailers to personalize interactions can make a big difference in the customer’s experience. Rather than the ones who address us like were all the same, the companies who are genuine in attempting to know each and every customer are the ones we’ll gladly take the time to get to know too.