Nine Merchants Earn Top Marks in Online Customer Service Study

Feb 02, 2012 10:56 PM  By

Nine merchants earned top performing marks in online customer service, according to the 14th annual Mystery Shopping Study conducted by The E-Tailing Group.

In alphabetical order, the top nine performing companies were: Ballard Designs, Frontgate, Garnet Hill, Green Mountain Coffee, The Home Depot, Tiffany & Co., Williams-Sonoma, Wine.com and Zappos.

Complete findings of the survey, including final scores, will be available in February.

Refinement is the name of the game, says Lauren Freeman, president of consultancy The E-Tailing Group.

To qualify as “top performing,” each of the 100 merchants was ranked using benchmarking extrapolated directly from results of the survey.

Winners were revealed via a process whereby sites were eliminated for not possessing “must have” features in the following order of importance: Accessibility of 800 number on site was 2.5 or higher (on a scale of 3.0 and including home page visibility); Answer email question within 24 hours correctly with a specific answer and personalized in salutation; Overall experience on customer service call (efficiency/knowledge) was a 2.0 or higher (on a scale of 3.0); Email order confirmation sent with order number and customer service information included; Three or fewer days to receive package; Presence of one-click/quick checkout feature; Five or fewer clicks to checkout.

Freedman says the study confirms that merchants are refining online tactics to find, inform, personalize and connect with improved speed and efficiency, while diligently developing social and mobile initiatives.

“The ultimate goal must be to deliver a channel-agnostic shopping experience whereby the consumer can seamlessly migrate from the physical store to their channel-of-choice,” Freedman says.

For Freedman, the results speak to efficiency at every point in the process because consumers need to be able to find products quickly in a variety of categories.

Merchants like Amazon and Zappos “have upped the ante on delivery and others are forced to follow suit” where customers make more choices on how long it takes to get the product,” Freedman says.

Information has “exploded online and consumers expect comprehensive information from imagery to product content where video is clearly making inroads to embellish the shopping experience and inform in an entertaining way,” Freedman adds.

Meanwhile, personalization is serving as a differentiator for those merchants who integrate personalization tools onsite and then target/segment more effectively off site, Freedman explains. “Mobile is a force to be reckoned with and social is getting the consumer and merchant’s attention despite unproven ROI.”

The study was conducted during the fourth quarter of 2011 and benchmarked 100 merchants. The study benchmarked 382 metrics on 100 ecommerce websites across 13 consumer product categories.