Product Knowledge Gap Reveals Opportunity for Multi-Brand Retailers


The old phrase “straight from the horse’s mouth” supposedly originated in horse racing circles, indicating that the knowledge came from the source closest to the situation (the horse, of course). One of the earliest printed versions of the phrase was in a May 1913 edition of the Syracuse Herald.

“I got a tip yesterday, and if it wasn’t straight from the horse’s mouth it was jolly well the next thing to it,” the paper read.

When it comes to customer service, it’s no surprise that product knowledge is stronger when it comes “straight from the horse’s mouth,” or rather, the manufacturer of the product.

StellaService data shows that across Phone, Email and Chat, brand manufacturers provide superior Product Knowledge to online shoppers. In fact, brands that sell direct to consumers average 5% better Product Knowledge than multi-brand retailers when considering all product categories.

Interestingly, the gap in Product Knowledge between brands …

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Stella Benchmarks: Strong Performance Across All Service Areas Drives L.L.Bean to No. 1


Photo courtesy L.L.Bean Bootmobile on Twitter.

Phone calls. Emails. Live chats. Deliveries. Returns. Regardless of the service area, L.L.Bean provided a level of customer service across all channels in July that was among the best in the U.S.

And, it’s nothing new for the Maine-based apparel and outdoor gear retailer. This is the third month in 2014 that L.L.Bean has topped the overall rankings in Stella Benchmarks.

In July, L.L.Bean ranked 6th in Phone, 12th in Email, 7th in Chat, 16th in Shipping and 6th in Returns. It was that high level of performance across all channels that pushed the retailer to the top of the overall rankings.

“Many retailers choose to sacrifice performance in one area to excel at another,” said Kevon Hills, StellaService Vice President of Research. “L.L.Bean takes a holistic approach to service and they truly strive to be the best in every service area.”

Of course, there’s always opportunity to improve. In the month of July, L.L.Bean managed to …

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While Phone and Email Are Flat, Live Chat Speeds Have Improved in 2014


Strategies for delivering the highest level of customer care are being finalized as retailers brace for the holiday rush. And, it seems live chat has potential to be a great asset for customers and customer care teams alike.

StellaService data comparing February through July of 2013 and 2014 shows the speed of customer service is nearly identical over phone and email. Looking at a set of 25 top retailers (full list at the end of this article), average time to reach an agent on the phone was 2 minutes 15 seconds in 2013 compared to 2 minutes 17 seconds in 2014. Responses to emails averaged 11.9 hours in 2013 and 11.7 hours in 2014.

While the needle on performance hasn’t moved much in these channels, there has been a notable improvement in the speed of customer care via chat. The average time to reach an agent over chat was about 1 minute 4 seconds in 2013, but has dropped to 40 seconds in 2014.

More and more companies are focusing on chat as it provides an avenue for real-time …

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Last Year, Back-To-School Retailers Delivered Faster in August


According to the National Retail Federation’s latest Back-to-School/College Surveys, the average family with children in grades K-12 has completed just half (49.9%) of their shopping. That means there’s still time for retailers to grab a share of the expected $50 billion to be spent online for back-to-school items.

The days of loading the brood into the minivan for a trip to the mall to pick out backpacks could be over. Ecommerce obviously provides convenience. And, with several popular retailers enabling schools to upload supplies lists directly to ecommerce sites, back-to-school shopping is potentially easier than ever.

As the countdown is on for dorm move-in and the first day of class, delivery speed becomes more important to consumers. Interestingly, during this high-volume sales season, some retailers actually manage to improve fulfillment and delivery performance.

Looking at last year’s performance we found a set of nine popular back-to-school retailers that all …

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Customers Expect Refunds In Less Than 7 Days This Holiday Season


The majority of online shoppers expect to get refunds back in one week or less during the holidays. But, StellaService data shows that many of the largest retailers in the country are not meeting these expectations as we head into the holiday shopping season.

In our 2014 Holiday Consumer Survey, 73% of shoppers expect a refund in a week or less during the holiday season. Breaking that 73% down, 39% expect a refund in less than 4 days and 34% expect a refund in 4 to 7 days.

So, how does the actual performance of retailers stack up against these expectations?

Our research team dug into the performance data behind 25 of the largest retailers (complete list of companies is available at the end of this article) and found that overall, average refund speed is not matching up with the expectations of shoppers.

Here’s the breakdown of how fast Top 25 retailers issued refunds from February to July 2014:

  • 8% issued refunds in less than 4 days
  • 20% issued refunds in 4 to 7 days
  • 64% issued …

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Postal Service Plays A Role In One-Third of Ecommerce Deliveries


By Jake Novick, Senior Research Associate, StellaService

The U.S. Postal Service plays a much bigger role in the success of ecommerce than many industry watchers realize.

While the Postal Service remains in the scrutiny of the public eye – posting $2 billion in losses last quarter alone — there is a bit of a bright spot that may foretell its place in the future – carrying packages the last mile for the larger carriers like UPS and FedEx. As ecommerce continues to balloon, getting parcels to customers’ doors in a timely manner has become vital component to a great shopping experience.

In the past, we have highlighted some retailers who are using carrier service upgrades to ensure speedy delivery to all regions of the country regardless of the location of distribution centers. However, less attention has been paid to the role of the USPS, which some view as a relic of ecommerce delivery. At first glance you might be right – StellaService data indicates that only …

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Consider These 3 Ecommerce Customer Service Holiday Stats


The ecommerce world is busy preparing for the 2014 holiday rush. To get a better understanding of shopper expectations this holiday shopping season, we conducted a survey of 500 respondents from August 8 to 15, 2014 using Google Consumer Surveys.

The results are in, and here are a few points to consider when planning for the holiday deluge:

  • Just 5% of shoppers say they’ll return to shop from a company that gave them bad service during the holidays
  • 49% of respondents are likely or very likely to buy online and pick up in store this holiday season
  • 53% of respondents said that Email is the preferred communication channel during the holidays, with phone coming in second (28%)

This is a snapshot of the survey results. Stay tuned as we’ll be diving in and looking at the results by age, gender and geographic region of the U.S., and stacking those results up against the true performance data of the largest retailers.

To get the complete results, join us August 26 for a live …

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Customer Service Is Major Blind Spot for CMOs


Jordy Leiser is Co-founder and CEO of StellaService.

Your marketing team has planned a blowout launch party. You’ve shot glossy product photos and unveiled an awesome ad campaign. Your website is open for business.

But after all this hard work, does your CMO know what it’s truly like to be a customer of your company? Does the CMO know the concerns your customers are voicing directly to the customer service department on a daily basis? Does she know what your packages look like when they arrive at the customer’s door?

Many CMOs and marketing leaders don’t have direct knowledge of how service is being delivered to the customer, and they possess a significant lack of understanding of how the brand message they’ve painstakingly crafted is translating to customers in their everyday interactions.

In today’s fast-moving digital era of instant gratification and expectation, the idea that a marketer does not have a thorough knowledge of how the brand …

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For Breakable Big-Screens, No Two Retailers Ship Alike


We’ve explored the challenges of shipping breakable items on a small scale, but in order to get a better understanding of how retailers are handling larger, higher priced shipments, Stella conducted a new study in May in which our Analysts placed orders for 50″ to 55″ Vizio Flatscreen TVs from 5 major retailers.

No two deliveries in the study were created alike. And, not all TVs arrived intact. Stella Analysts found that even when retailers shipped these items in the manufacturer’s box, packaging materials varied from retailer to retailer, which begs the question: if it’s the same item, made by the same manufacturer, shipped in the manufacturer’s box, why would the out-of-box experience differ?

Retailers looking for a better price with wholesalers often negotiate cost with the materials used for packaging. It’s tricky, as retailers try to hold to packaging standards while keeping the economics in order. Of course, it is in the best interest of the retailer to …

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11 Resources to Get Your Customer Service Teams In Shape


Is your ecommerce customer service team adequately prepared for the ever increasing amount of consumers shopping online?

The fact that in-store shopping is on the decline certainly isn’t news to anyone in retail. But, new data shows that the migration from in-store to online is happening faster than expected.

Consumer spending in the U.S. experienced a small uptick (0.4%) in June, but as reported by the Wall Street Journal, in-store visits declined by nearly 7% in June and 5% in July.

The data comes from Shoppertrak, a firm that measures in store traffic through tracking devices installed in 40,000 locations in the U.S.

For many retailers this means continued store closures, scaled-back plans for store openings, and a transformation of existing physical stores into distribution centers.

It’s a time of great transition that is felt by retailer and customer alike. There will inevitably be bumps along the way, and delivering consistent and efficient customer service will be …

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