Slow and Steady Loses This Race
In a hurry? OfficeDepot.com and SierraTradingPost.com do not like to make their customers wait, according to a recent study of online retailers by StellaService, an independent company that rates the customer service performance of online stores.
With an average of six seconds, SierraTradingPost.com ranked first for the shortest average time that customers have to wait while on hold before speaking to a customer service representative. OfficeDepot.com earned first place for responding to customer emails the fastest with an average time of 48 minutes.
DisneyStore.com was the only company that ranked among the top 10 for both categories, scoring the speediest email support with an average of a little more than an hour and 47 minutes and a 12-second wait for phone support.
“There’s not much overlap in the companies that performed well in both calls and email at response time,” says Jordy Leiser, CEO of StellaService. “I assumed it would be a cultural thing for companies to believe in speedy service and make it a priority from a resource standpoint. A company may operate that way, but that didn’t bear itself out in the data.”
StellaService rates thousands of retailers each year across more than 350 metrics, including usability and online tools, shipping and returns, and customer support. The company uses a nationwide network of full-time mystery shoppers to evaluate each site. This year, StellaService ranked the performance of the Web’s top 100 retailers through more than 1,200 calls, emails, and mystery shopping interactions.
StellaService also examined wait times by industry. The automotive parts and accessories category produced the fastest average email reply time, at three hours and 38 minutes, with USAutoParts.com in the lead. The specialty/non-apparel and office supplies categories provided the most readily available phone support, with both categories averaging hold times of about one minute. Books/music/video averaged the longest call hold time—more than four minutes—with BarnesandNoble.com asking customers to wait the longest.
“Some retailers, by the kind of products that they sell, [response time] is just absolutely critical,” Leiser says. “For some things, like electronics—which some of us use all day, every day—we feel like we need immediate help and immediate service.…to speak with somebody immediately because it’s very time-sensitive.”
Despite categorical differences, however, Leiser does offer a blanket statement to cover retailers: “The quicker you get back to your customer, the better off you are.”
Associate/Web Editor Brittany Farb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.