Customer service, a lost art for many companies, isn't dead. A new survey of the response times for consumer inquiries at the top 100 web retailers shows some consistently speedy results - a welcome contrast to what many have experienced on the other end of the spectrum.
The web evaluation firm STELLAService tested the companies' speed at getting a customer service representative on the phone and getting a real response to emailed questions. When it came to dialing in and getting a person, SierraTradingPost.com, scored top honors at picking up in a speedy six seconds. OfficeDepot.com had the quickest email response average at 48 minutes.
Good performance on the phone did not mean speedy email response or vice versa. Only one company: DisneyStore.com, was in the top 10 in both categories (12 seconds on the phone and a bit under two hours on email).
STELLAService co-founder Jordy Leiser told dealnews it seemed as though companies didn't always have the same oversight of their customer service email teams and telephone crews.
"Sometimes these two things operate independently," he said.
The biggest surprise, Leiser said, was that some of the smaller companies outperformed larger ones with far more resources. The difference, he said, was that those smaller companies clearly decided to focus their more limited resources on customer service.
"A lot of people believe great customer service is the best marketing you can do," Leiser said.
Here are the five companies with the shortest telephone customer service hold times in the STELLAService survey:
- SierraTradingPost.com (6 seconds)
- YOOX.com (11 seconds)
- DisneyStore.com (12 seconds)
- UrbanOutfitters.com (17 seconds)
- Grainger.com (21 seconds)
These are the five with the longest hold times:
- BarnesandNoble.com (8 minutes 3 seconds)
- CSNStores.com (7 minutes 20 seconds)
- Macys.com (7 minutes 12 seconds)
- Zones.com (6 minute 56 seconds)
- GreenMountainCoffee.com (4 minutes 50 seconds)
About one-third of the sites surveyed delivered a person to answer consumer questions in less than a minute. The average time to reach a live person: 1 minute and 41 seconds.
The top five email responses came from:
- OfficeDepot.com (47 minutes)
- MusiciansFriend.com (59 minutes)
- Diapers.com (1 hour, 24 minutes)
- DisneyStore.com (1 hour, 48 minutes)
- Abercrombie.com (1 hour, 51 minutes)
Others that were quick on email: USAutoParts.net (3 hours, 38 minutes), Gilt.com (4 hours, 43 minutes), PCMall.com (4 hours, 50 minutes), Kohls.com (5 hours, 2 minutes) and Coldwatercreek.com (5 hours, 6 minutes).
The slowest on email:
- Crateandbarrel.com (88 hours, 30 minutes)
- Fingerhut.com (79 hours, 30 minutes)
- Dell.com (65 hours, 11 minutes)
- SwissColony.com (52 hours, 29 minutes)
- MarketAmerica.com (39 hours, 36 minutes)
The average email response time was about 17 hours, STELLAService found. STELLAService had about 1,200 contacts with companies through email and the phone over a recent four-week period to conduct the survey.