Super Service

What characteristics do merchants such as Ann Taylor, hpshopping, Petsmart, and Tower Records have in common? According to the e-tailing group inc.’s 7th Annual Mystery Shopping Survey of 100 retailers, these merchants have reached the pinnacle of online customer service. The top ten B-to-C sites make it easy, and even pleasant, for customers to cruise, choose, and buy their products on the Web.

The e-tailing group study, conducted in the fourth quarter of 2004, found that some of the elements of online shopping have improved noticeably. For instance, 95% of sites surveyed now include a toll-free phone number. One of the ways merchants have made buying easier on their online customers is to provide keyword search functions — also available on 95% of the sites surveyed — and the study notes “a vast improvement in correct and relevant results” over the previous year. Another improvement the study points out: In 2004, 97% of companies surveyed e-mailed their customers shipping notices, compared to 81% in 2003, and 91% of companies surveyed provided immediate shopping cart order confirmations, up from 89% the previous year.