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L.L. Bean, Zappos Among Retailers Recognized In Customer Service Study

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There are a variety of new marketing and communication channels emerging on what seems like a daily basis. Although many retailers see this as an ongoing challenge, it provides an opportunity to engage customers across multiple touch points, leading to improved satisfaction and loyalty. 

In the 16th Annual Mystery Shopping Study, conducted by the e-tailing group, just six retailers were recognized for their superior customer service. Of the 100 B2C merchants analyzed, the top-scoring companies were: Aveda; Golfsmith; L.L. Bean; REI; Sunglass Hut; and Zappos.

{loadposition TSHBAIAA022014} Eight must-have elements were factored into each company’s assessment, including: three or fewer days to receive package, five or fewer clicks to check out and online shipment tracking with a tracking link. The six “top performers” in the study had to excel in “a lot of elements in order for customer service to be superior,” according to Lauren Freedman, President of the e-tailing group, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints.

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“Customers don’t care about luxury features like a nice homepage — retailers have to be far more holistic,” Freedman said. “You have got to do everything right because each time you have an interaction with the customer, each time they experience something on your site, it has to work well and you have to take care of them.”

Top Performers Focus On Service Response Times

The study showed that Top Performers responded faster to customer service inquiries sent via email. The average response time was approximately eight hours for the top six retailers, compared to an average of 21 hours for all 100 retailers.

The overall phone experience among Top Performers also was rated higher: On a scale of one to three, three being the best, Top Performers scored 2.83. The average score of all 100 retailers was 2.56.

“The customer who is shopping online or across channels is looking for pretty strong response times,” Freedman said. “So leaving a customer on hold for 15 minutes is something that the customer will not stand for. The customer is impatient and expects to have their questions answered, so your communication with them has to be timely and effective.”

As a result, Freedman stated that monitoring communication touch points should “top every retailer’s to-do list” in 2014.

The research also shows that customers have become more self-sufficient. Even though 80% of the retailers surveyed have FAQs to address self-service needs, only 25% make them search engine optimized.

Analyzing Other Components Of The Customer Experience

As part of the Mystery Shopping Survey, the e-tailing group analyzed several other components of the shopping experience, including checkout process, payment acceptance, delivery times and return/exchange policies.

Additional findings include:

  • 43% of retailers have one-click checkout capabilities, down from 49% last year;
  • 62% of retailers accept payment via PayPal, compared to 56% last year; and
  • 27% of retailers offer online product returns, up from 21% last year.

However, Freedman point out that the most surprising finding was the lack of change in product delivery time compared to last year’s survey results. The Top Performers delivered products within 2.5 business days, while the overall average was 3.8, which was the same score as 2012. Freedman noted that this area was where most companies “fall-out with customers.”

Freedman concluded: “It was surprising that even with all the discussion and media coverage on how logistics are going to be so much faster, at the end of the day they weren’t any faster year-over-year with ground shipping.” 

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