January 18, 2005, 12:00 AM

10 sites that rate a 10 in customer service, in shopping survey

Ten of 100 sites that consultant The E-Tailing Group Inc. shopped in the fourth quarter rated perfect scores for online customer service. They had to meet all 11 must-have conditions to qualify for the perfect score.


Ten of 100 sites that consultant The E-Tailing Group Inc. shopped in the fourth quarter rated perfect scores for online customer service.

Researchers shopped 100 sites and ranked them for customer service on the following criteria, which The E-Tailing Group describes as “must have:”
1. 800 or toll-free telephone number
2. Keyword Search
3. Answer e-mail question within 25 hours, correctly with 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 w/order number included
10. Recommended products/features in shopping process
11. Display customer service hours

The E-Tailing Group added bonus points if merchants personalized the salutation in their email responses.

Ten sites that met all criteria were:
• Ann Taylor
• Coldwater Creek
• HPShopping
• Lands` End
• Neiman Marcus
• Nordstrom
• Petsmart
• Restoration Hardware
• Tower Records

“As the e-commerce channel reaches a point of maturation, providing best-of-breed customer service is more critical than ever," says Lauren Freedman, president of The E-Tailing Group.

The E-Tailing Group also reported the following results:

• 95% of the sites include a toll-free phone number

• 71% provided a guarantee vs. just 45% a year earlier

• 36% offered first-time users tips

• 95% of sites offered keyword search, with a significant increase in correct and relevant results vs. a year ago

• 26 hours was the average time for e-mail response, consistent with last year. However, researchers reported many more merchants sending automated responses or referrals to vendors rather than attempting to personally address customer queries.
• 25% of sites offer live help, with 92% in working order vs. 88% a year ago. However, times to chat were much higher than last year, which The E-Tailing Group says is likely due to multi-tasking customer service representatives.
• 92% of sites offer shipping status vs. 91% a year ago. The average number of days to receive a package (4.4) is consistent with a year ago.
• Average number of clicks to checkout was 4.8 vs. 4.6 a year ago and 4.9 the year before.
• 79% offer real-time inventory, up from 68%
• 56% offer recommendations in the shopping cart vs. 50% a year ago
• 38% have one-click checkout vs. 24% a year ago.
• In order confirmations, 91% provide an immediate order confirmation in the shopping cart vs. 89% last year; 97% e-mailed a shipping confirmation up from 81%.


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