Top Response Times from the Top 100 E-Retailers

June 13, 2011 / 22 Comments


We’ve all been there before. Caught off guard. Even shocked, in a good way.

It can be a little jolting when, after dialing the support number of a massive company, you get a live customer service representative (CSR) who’s ready to help you with whatever you need. Dare I say a “WOW” experience?

At STELLAService, we believe all businesses should aim to provide this kind of time-sensitive support for their customers. When it comes to questions, problems or issues, time is always of the essence. That’s why our methodology for ranking e-retailers has always taken phone and email response times into account when evaluating the overall online customer experience.

Today, we’re excited to continue sharing some of our customer service performance data with the public. Below are the top 10 average call hold times and email reply times of the largest 100 Internet retailers in the US as measured by InternetRetailer:

*See note below to learn more about the methodology for collecting this data.

If you happen to be in the market for a new jacket or a new TV or a fresh new pair of sneakers, chances are that price and selection are nearly uniform across dozens of online stores. As a result, the speed to get someone on the phone or the wait to receive an email reply can make a big difference in who you decide to do business with. confirmed its obsession with providing speedy service, delivering the shortest average call hold time of the top 100 retailers. On the other hand, Barnes and Noble (, which is currently in talks to be acquired, made callers wait the longest with an average call hold time of over 8 minutes.

In the case of emails, it’s fitting that stood out as number one given most of its customers are business-minded people with limited tolerance for slow service.

By contrast, be prepared to give nearly four days to respond via email if you have a question about those cool new wine glasses.

These data points can help consumers navigate the online shopping universe and discover where to buy if speedy follow-up service is an important factor. In the end, however, call hold times and email reply times are only two of the 350 measurements we take to evaluate the overall service experience of an online merchant. Check out our infographic to learn more about our comprehensive methodology and how STELLAService evaluates the online customer experience.

Happy shopping!


* Through 1200 calls, e-mails, and “mystery shopping” interactions, STELLAService engaged each business over multiple days and multiple times periods of the day to generate measurements of service performance that have high reliability and construct validity. For the phone support assessment, six phone calls were placed randomly to each Internet retailer, one during a specific time period throughout the business day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). One call was attempted on each day Monday-Thursday and each day of the weekend as well. For the email assessment, six e-mails were placed randomly to each online store, one during a specific time period throughout the business day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). One e-mail was sent on each day, Monday-Saturday.

22 thoughts on “Top Response Times from the Top 100 E-Retailers

  1. Pingback: Please Hold: How Fast Do Top Internet Retailers Respond to Customers? | - Finance News & Personal Finance Resources

  2. Unfortunately email is just used as a way for most companies to get customers to not call at all, so they can lower their operating expenses. It usually does not translate to better or faster service.

    • @Greg: Email’s popularity as a means for customers to interact with companies increases daily. As such, many of the companies we evaluate not only reply swiftly, but also provide thoughtful and helpful responses. While email may not ALWAYS guarantee faster or better service, it does allow customers to un-tether themselves from the phone to get help and provides them another way to get in touch with the online retailers they love the most.

  3. Surprised Lands’ End isn’t on there. A live person has always answered on the second or third ring. Never been put on hold when I’ve called.

    • @Anna – That’s not to say they don’t have great service! wasn’t included because they’re not one of the top 100 largest internet retailers that we based our report on.

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  10. I’d love to see a list of the ‘bad boys’. Like the cell phone companies, credit card brands and banks, and cable companies. Out hold time at The Caregiver Partnership is zero. We don’t use any of the fancy features on our system. We just hire the right amount of people so we can always answer the call right away. Period.

    • Tom – We’re all about showing customers the best in online customer service, therefore it wouldn’t make sense for us to dedicate a post about who has the worst. That said, having a short to non-existent hold time for your customers is a pretty great achievement — it goes a long way to ensuring their satisfaction.

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  12. Excellent data! I lead a B2B marketing services organization that includes a Contact Center. I’m thrilled to see how we stack up against B2C. Any plans on doing B2B company benchmarks? Have you investigated live chat response times?

    • Thanks for your comment Jennifer.

      Although we’re currently focused on online retail, we’ll likely eventually move in B2B benchmarks as well. In reference to your question about live chat, the answer is, yes. Response times are one of the many metrics that we use to evaluate a retailer’s live chat functionality. Overall, we feel that providing live chat for customers is a great way for a company to assist its customers all while allowing them to keep their attention on the actual website.

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