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Top-Ranked B-To-C Web Sites For Customer Service

January 22, 2008

Who is the tops when it comes to online customer service. Other than anecdotally, the only real way to tell is via mystery shopping, which is what consultancy company the e-tailing group does in order to arrive at its top-ranked list. This year, 11 merchants have been recognized for excelling at online customer service based on the e-tailing group’s 10th Annual Mystery Shopping Study.
 
"As the online channel matures it is essential for merchants to prioritize exemplary service or growth rates will continue to decline and flatten out," cautions Lauren Freedman, President, the e-tailing group. "Throughout this year’s study we clearly saw a divide between merchants that just provide baseline service and those that truly have a customer service culture. Great service leads to loyalty and those merchants who make it the differentiator will profit from their investments," she asserts.
 
Of the 100 sites shopped throughout the fourth quarter of 2007, those listed met all of the criteria established relative to customer service and communication (which are listed later in this article).
 
The top performing business-to-consumer sites for online customer service in 2007 were:

Blue Nile
Container Store
Crutchfield (a prior year winner)
Discovery Channel Store
Fossil
Golfsmith (a prior year winner)
Lands’ End
Polo
Pottery Barn
REI
Zappos
 
Four additional sites, including one prior-year winner, met all criteria but did not make the final cut because their toll-free phone numbers were not clearly visible on the home page (present on 63 percent of the 100 sites shopped). "This is a perfect example of a simple to execute customer-centric feature that builds trust and decreases site abandonment," explains Freedman. "Personally I rarely purchase from a merchant that cannot be easily contacted; where it is a bit like ‘Where’s Waldo?’ to locate their phone number."
 
Armani Exchange
Bluefly (a prior year winner)
Home Depot
Nine West
 
To qualify as "top performing," each of the 100 merchants was ranked using benchmarking criteria extrapolated directly from results of the survey. The top merchants for online customer service were revealed via a process whereby sites were systematically eliminated for not possessing "must have" criteria in the following order of importance:
 
1.    800 or toll-free telephone number present and visible on the home page
2.    Keyword search
3.    Correctly answer e-mail question within 25 hours; providing a specific answer
4.    Four or fewer days to receive package
5.    Six or fewer clicks to checkout
6.    Real time inventory in shopping cart or product page
7.    Online shipping status
8.    Order confirmation in shopping cart
9.    E-mail order confirmation sent with order number included
10.  Recommended products/features in shopping process
11.  Display customer service hours
12.  Holiday shipping deadline stated
 
For more information, visit www.e-tailing.com.
 
 
Tracey Schelmetic is editorial director for CUSTOMER INTER@CTION Solutions. For more articles please visit Tracey Schelmetic’s columnist page.

Want a chance at winning a hot new Mustang convertible? How about a Bose SoundDock and an 8GM iPod Touch? Run, don’t walk to INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO East 2008, going on now. These prizes will be raffled off at the show on Thursday, Jan. 24 (SoundDock and iPod Touch) and Friday, Jan. 25 (Mustang). You must be present at the drawing to win.
 

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