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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.
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.
It’s that time of year again when millions of people, young and old, are racing to prepare for the first day back to school. For many, this is an exciting time, when personal aspirations meet opportunity and anything seems possible.
However, we know that this is also an anxious and nerve-racking time, when the “to-do” list seems to command all the attention. At STELLAService, we understand that students (and parents, of course) have enough to worry about, so we wanted to help by evaluating the Internet’s biggest one-stop shops for hassle-free back-to-school shopping.
We evaluated 15 of the Internet’s leading online retailers, including Amazon, Costco, Walmart, Buy.com, and Overstock.com. We measured the retailers according to six best practices exemplifying both speed and convenience during the back-to-school crunch, including shipping, returns, and payment options.
We’re excited to share these results below:
Costco.com offers the most hassle-free shopping features (6) and outpaces the others when it comes to shipping (see additional information below). Aside from fast shipping, Coscto.com makes it easy to return a product, offering a 90-day return window and no requirement for a Return Merchandise Authorization number (RMA#) should you need to send back any part of your order.
From school supplies to dorm accessories, the convenience of the shopping experience at Costco.com is an A+. We hope you find this information helpful, and feel free to share with us your own back-to-school shopping experiences at retailers beyond these one-stop shops.
Here’s to a successful school year!
So I’ll admit it, I was eavesdropping the other night at dinner. I heard a man complaining to his wife about a poor experience he had shopping online (it didn’t hurt that the guy was one of those loud talkers). Anyway, he went on and on about some expensive tennis racquet he wanted to buy and how he didn’t really know which site to buy it from (apparently there were numerous online shops that carried the one he wanted). He ultimately purchased from one of the sites and, of course, they sent him the wrong racquet! They made him pay for return shipping and apparently no one in the company’s customer service department could be bothered for the hassle it caused this guy. He was pissed. I, on the other hand, leaned back in my chair and smiled. I know, I know…not cool to take pleasure in stuff like this, but what a case study for STELLA!
Over the past couple of years my co-founder and I have had the opportunity to chat with some of brightest folks in e-commerce, and along the way we’ve realized that everyone (subconsciously or not) thinks about online buying behavior in the same three buckets (what I like to call the “E-comm Big Three”): Price; Selection; and Service.
Thinking through this, we began to formulate an opinion that two of these Big Three (Price and Selection) we’re not sustainable differentiators for most of the e-commerce landscape. Consider this: I can visit TheFind.com, a popular shopping comparison engine claiming to have 400,000 Internet retailers in its database, and see over 200 results for the same “Spalding TF-100 Basketball”, sold for more or less the same price at each store. Should I buy at Sears.com, DicksSportingGoods.com, or Dazadi.com (Dazadi…huh?). STELLAService is our solution to this very problem. With price and product selection continuing to converge across most online categories, customer service has increasingly becoming the leading reason why shoppers select one shop over another. All else equal, why wouldn’t you want to do business with a company that focuses 110% on providing great service?
I should also mention that our team has been hard at work creating an enhanced version of STELLAService.com – it will hopefully go live in a matter of days. The new site will give shoppers a much more detailed look at the specific service features and elements of online retailers. No two shoppers are the same, and each values different service attributes differently. So we plan to share some key metrics with shoppers so they can see for themselves which stores deliver the kind of customer experience they’re really after. Stay tuned!