STELLAService Study: Black Friday, Cyber Monday Performance Shows Opportunity For Retailers To Stand Apart

December 3, 2012 / 3 Comments

Cyber Monday

A STELLAService evaluation of customer service performance over the busy stretch of Black Friday through Cyber Monday reveals some insights into how retailers prioritize their service efforts.

For example, JCPenney.com ranked near the bottom of the pack last year in phone and email support. But, with a new chief executive in place this year, the company clearly placed an emphasis on improving phone support during the holidays, besting the rest of the field in time to reach a customer service agent with an average time of 22 seconds. Compare that performance to a non-holiday baseline of three months beginning Aug. 1, JCPenney.com increased its speed to connect customers with customer service representatives by 80%.

However, JCPenney.com still showed weaknesses. The company replied within 24 hours to just one of 20 emails sent over the four-day study period.

This year’s study showed that some retailers like Amazon.com have the ability to keep service levels consistent during the rush. Amazon.com, widely recognized for great customer service, actually connected customers to an agent on the phone 40 seconds faster than the same period last year. The company was also the only to reply within 24 hours to 100% of emails sent by STELLAService analysts two years in a row.

Similarly, LLBean.com continued a track record of providing fantastic customer support via email. The company also replied within 24 hours to 100% of emails sent by STELLAService, an 8% improvement over last year. And, the retailer was the fastest in the study, replying to emails in 27 minutes on average. That figure was nearly twice as fast as Amazon.com, the next best performer.

STELLAService measures and rates the customer service performance of online retailers on a daily basis through real customer service interactions over phone, email and live chat.

Black Friday through Cyber Monday data was collected by attempting five interactions each day for each service channel. Calls, emails and live chats were placed at random during the following time-blocks to generate measurements of service performance that have high reliability and construct validity: 8:00 -11:00 a.m. ET; 11:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET; 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. ET; 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET; 8:00 – 11:00 p.m. ET.

The aggregate time to reach a live agent improved by more than 30 seconds this year, however there were some surprises amongst some of last year’s top performers.  Last year, Overstock.com and LLBean.com ranked second and third, respectively. But, Overstock.com fell to 17th place this year, clocking in at 4:49 on average compared to 44 seconds last year. Compare this to a strong performance of 31 seconds on average for the three months prior. LLBean.com dropped to 11th this year, clocking in at 3:02 compared to 46 seconds last year.

Comparing this year’s performance to the baseline (daily interactions from Aug. 1 – Oct. 31), LLBean.com and Overstock.com were seemingly the worst equipped to handle the holiday rush. LLBean.com’s normal average speed to reply is more than 1000% better than its performance in this year’s Black Friday – Cyber Monday study, while Overstock.com is usually more than 800% faster at replying to emails.

Interestingly, just four companies managed to respond within 24 hours to every email sent during the study – Amazon.com, HSN.com, LLBean.com and Zappos.com (a subsidiary of Amazon.com). The entire field responded to emails within 24 hours just 51% of the time on average. Aggregate time to receive a response via email also increased by nearly 4 hours this year.

ToysRUs.com, which has faced public criticism for its responsiveness to customers during the study period, failed to respond to a single email with 24 hours, which reflects its baseline response time of more than 36 hours. JCPenney.com also struggled to reply within 24 hours, doing so just once.

More retailers offered live chat this year – 16 compared to 14. But only six responded to 100% of inquiries placed by STELLAService analysts – Overstock.com, LLBean.com, HSN.com, Dell.com, OfficeDepot.com and Newegg.com. But, the channel proved efficient for customers, with the average time to reach an agent via chat for those companies clocking in at 1:25 compared to more than 3 minutes for phone.

With the volume of service inquiries likely staying elevated through the next two months as shoppers place last minute orders and process returns and refunds, there’s still time to right the ship for retailers who struggled in recent weeks.

“This season is a big test for retailers,” STELLAService CEO Jordy Leiser said. “Now that the first wave of the busy holiday season has passed, it’s important for these customer service teams to regroup, identify areas they can improve and work to keep customers coming back once the crazy holiday deals are over.”

STELLAService evaluated the largest online retailers by revenue, excluding Apple.com because they do not offer email and live chat support. CDW.com and Grainger.com were also excluded because they mostly focus on business customers. The following companies were included in the study: Amazon.com Inc., Zappos.com Inc. (Amazon subsidiary), Staples Inc., Dell Inc., Office Depot Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Sears Holdings Corp., QVC Inc., Office Max Inc., Best Buy Co. Inc., Newegg Inc., Sony Corp., Costco Wholesale Corp., Macy’s Inc., Victoria’s Secret Direct LLC, Hewlett-Packard Co., J.C. Penney Inc., L.L. Bean Inc., Target Corp., Systemax Inc. (TigerDirect.com), Gap Inc., Williams-Sonoma Inc., HSN Inc., Overstock.com and Toys ‘R’ Us Inc.

Email:

Company

Response Time

Response Rate
LLBean.com

0:26

100.0%

Amazon.com

0:43

100.0%

Overstock.com

3:28

85.0%

Staples.com

4:30

30.0%

Dell.com

6:50

35.0%

OfficeDepot.com

7:40

60.0%

Zappos.com

7:48

100.0%

HSN.com

7:57

100.0%

Newegg.com

8:27

70.0%

Walmart.com

10:29

25.0%

Store.Sony.com

10:48

85.0%

TigerDirect.com

11:31

45.0%

Sears.com

11:36

20.0%

Gap.com

11:58

90.0%

OfficeMax.com

12:02

30.0%

Target.com

13:50

95.0%

Costco.com

15:24

15.0%

VictoriasSecret.com

16:38

10.0%

Shopping.HP.com

16:45

60.0%

JCPenney.com

17:10

5.0%

QVC.com

17:23

50.0%

Macys.com

21:25

10.0%

BestBuy.com

22:03

15.0%

Williams-Sonoma.com

22:29

35.0%

ToysRUs.com

n/a

0.0%

Phone:

Companies

Time To Agent

JCPenney.com

0:22

OfficeMax.com

0:30

Amazon.com

0:59

Target.com

1:05

Gap.com

1:33

Zappos.com

2:07

Staples.com

2:09

VictoriasSecret.com

2:21

Williams-Sonoma.com

2:28

Sears.com

3:00

LLBean.com

3:02

Newegg.com

3:33

QVC.com

3:57

Macys.com

4:09

BestBuy.com

4:22

OfficeDepot.com

4:33

Overstock.com

4:49

Shop.Sony.com

4:49

ToysRUs.com

5:15

Shopping.HP.com

5:28

HSN.com

5:46

Dell.com

8:49

Walmart.com

11:20

TigerDirect.com

12:14

Costco.com

12:34

 

3 thoughts on “STELLAService Study: Black Friday, Cyber Monday Performance Shows Opportunity For Retailers To Stand Apart

  1. Pingback: Best Buy Pulls Email Support From Customer Service Page, Favors Live Chat | Happy Customer

  2. Why doesn’t it surprise me that Amazon consistently is among the very best in customer service. They do it fast, right and without hassle.

  3. Given the size of some of these organisations, their turnaround time is impressive esp as it is measured during the busiest period of the year. It would be great to see some of this attention to customer service develop faster in Europe.

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