Target Now Delivers In Less Than Two Days On Average

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Target had an impressive showing in the Shipping area of the most recent Stella Benchmarks, a sign that the retailer is investing in initiatives to please customers with swift delivery.

The company improved delivery times by three full days in August, besting the competition with an average fulfillment time of one day, 13 hours. That’s a full day faster than its nearest competitor, Apple Inc.

The notable improvement comes three months after Target announced an initiative to fulfill orders more quickly. The company is also testing ship-from-store and StellaService Analysts received several orders in August that originated in locations not within proximity of Target’s distribution centers.

August marks the first time Target has lead the Stella Benchmarks rankings in Shipping, and the third time the retail chain has been in the Top 25 since January. StellaService data shows Target took four days, 15 hours to fulfill online orders the previous month.

A large part of this improvement …

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Winning the Customer Service Game This Holiday Season

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Kevon Hills is Vice President of Research at StellaService. Connect with Kevon on LinkedIn.

The retail world is preparing for the season of giving and shoppers are continuing to turn to ecommerce as a convenient alternative to crowded stores throughout the holiday season. The pressure is on for online retailers as customers are more emotional than ever during the holidays.

At the same time, the holiday shopping season represents a golden opportunity to create customer loyalty for seasons to come.

Throughout the 2013 holiday season, StellaService ecommerce analysts placed multiple orders, made calls, sent emails and live chats to the top retailers to measure the quality of their customer service performance during the holiday crunch time. We also polled consumers in August 2014 to understand expectations specific to the holiday season. It’s no surprise to find that just 5% of consumers would shop again at a retailer that gave them bad customer service during the holiday.

Based on …

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Stella Benchmarks: L.L.Bean Tops Rankings for the Fourth Time in 2014

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L.L.Bean provided the best overall customer service in August, marking the retailers fourth time topping Stella Benchmarks in 2014.

One of the keys to great customer service is matching expectations across all channels. L.L.Bean makes this a priority. The retailer repeated its top performance from the previous month by ranking among the Top 25 in Email, Chat, Shipping and Returns.

Stella Benchmarks includes 139 companies evaluated on a daily basis by StellaService. Customer care channels – Phone, Email and Chat – are measured daily, while fulfillment metrics are measured across multiple orders each month.

Nine companies that did not rank in the Top 25 overall last month earned a spot in August: Gap, Marc Jacobs, Burberry, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Motosport, Microsoft, Brooks Brothers and Wayfair.

Companies that have ranked in the Top 25 Overall every month in 2014:

  • J.Crew
  • L.L.Bean
  • Zappos
  • Shopbop
  • Net-A-Porter

One of the standouts in the most recent Benchmarks was Target’s …

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StellaService Data Shows Spike in Apple Hold Times Post iPhone 6 Launch

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The release of Apple’s iPhone 6 resulted in customers waiting in lines stretching multiple city blocks. So, what was the wait when calling Apple’s customer service department during the big release?

StellaService Analysts place calls to Apple’s customer service department every day and found that the retailer handled inbound calls on the release date quite well, but struggled the day after.

On Friday, Sept. 19, the Apple customer service team managed to answer calls in 1 minute and 9 seconds, outperforming its average speed of 1 minute and 45 seconds for all of 2014. But, StellaService Analysts experienced a significant wait on Saturday — more than 20 minutes. As part of StellaService’s data collection methodology, calls are abandoned after the wait time exceeds 20 minutes.

Apple only offers Phone and Chat support – no customer service questions are handled over Email or social media.

Apple said Monday that it sold 10 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models combined after …

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Backcountry.com CEO Jill Layfield On Using Outdoor Experts as CSRs

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The “Shop with a Gearhead” feature on Backcountry.com allows customers to connect one-on-one with an expert that shares the same interests.

A well-designed, innovative ecommerce site paired with top-notch, human-powered customer service seems to be a winning combination for Backcountry.com, an online retailer of outdoor sporting goods and apparel based in Park City, Utah. Backcountry.com’s customer service performance is rated Elite by StellaService, the highest rating tier possible.

The site’s “Shop with a Gearhead” service caught our attention as it allows the site’s shoppers to email, call or live chat directly with a Gearhead (the site’s name for customer service representatives) who shares similar interests, ranging from Alpine Skiing and Backpacking to Snowshoeing, Trail Running and Yoga — and every outdoor activity in between.

We spoke with Backcountry.com CEO Jill Layfield to get a better understanding of …

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Mass Merchant Fulfillment Performance Wavers Across Product Categories

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Do shoppers have a better delivery experience ordering from ‘category-specific’ retailers than mass merchants? Think: L.L.Bean vs. Amazon for Apparel, HP vs. Costco for Electronics or Crate & Barrel vs. Sears for Home Furnishings.

We evaluated the fulfillment performance data of six mass merchants — Amazon, Costco, Kohl’s, Sears, Target, and Walmart — across three specific product categories: Apparel / Accessories, Electronics and Home Furnishings and compared performance to that of retailers specializing in that category.

The time frame for this study was May-July 2014, and the six mass merchants were:

  • Amazon
  • Costco
  • Kohl’s
  • Sears
  • Target
  • Walmart

The first three months of data tell an interesting story. Only two of the six outperformed the vertical across all three categories. That is, only two mass merchants — Costco and Sears — consistently delivered Electronics, Home Furnishings and Apparel faster on average than their category-specific …

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Sears Rolls Out Curbside Returns, Exchanges

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Sears has added returns and exchanges to its popular In-Vehicle Pickup service. The new integrated retail service, powered by the Shop Your Way mobile app, lets members pick up, return or exchange their purchases for free – guaranteed in five minutes or less – without ever leaving their vehicle.

It’s a great option for consumers, as Sears has struggled with refund speed in 2014. StellaService data shows the retailer’s Total Days to Refund has doubled since March, now averaging close to 14 days through August. Sears trails competitors like Amazon, Target and Walmart in the metric.

But, Sears has certainly found success in leveraging its physical stores to ship products faster. And, earlier this year the retailer aimed to better connect in-store and online shopping with the launch of In-Vehicle Pickup.

Curbside returns and exchanges takes that concept of convenience to the next level.

This is how it works:

  • To start an in-vehicle return or exchange, a customer visits sears.com, …

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Time to Prepare Your CSRs to Answer Questions About Apple Pay

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In addition to the iPhone 6, Apple announced Tuesday a payments platform accepted at more than 220,000 merchant locations as well as digital shopping applications.

Now payments happen with a single touch.

To pay, users will hold their iPhone near a reader with their finger on the phone’s built in fingerprint reader. A subtle vibration and beep lets users know the payment has been made. Users can also use Apple Pay to pay with a single touch in apps. Checking out is as easy as selecting “Apple Pay” and placing a finger on the fingerprint reader.

With the iPhone’s share of the mobile device market and projections for sales of the iPhone 6, Apple Pay has great potential.

Participating brick-and-mortar retailers include Babies”R”Us, Bloomingdales, Macy’s, Nike, Staples and Toys”R”Us, while retailers offering Apple Pay in-app include Sephora, Starbucks and Target.

Of course, in the wake of major data breaches at retailers in recent months, …

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Lowe’s Funnels Customer Feedback Through “Rant or Rave” App

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Social networks have proven to be a challenging channel to service customers, who often turn to Twitter or Facebook to air grievances.

Part of the challenge is providing a good solution to a customer’s issue in 140 characters (or less when you include the user’s Twitter handle). And for obvious privacy concerns, a retailer doesn’t want to encourage customers to publicly share details like order and shipping information.

Lowe’s has created a microsite and application to collect and respond to customer feedback, from sources including Twitter and Facebook, that seems to address these challenges. Both the Lowe’s Twitter account dedicated to customer service, @lowescares, and its main account, @lowes, replies to customer tweets and refers them to the microsite.

@dewittrunner1 Lori, we understand your frustration, pls let us help you. Share the details with us at http://bit.ly/1su5ouX

The link sends the Twitter user to lowesrantorrave.com, a microsite that encourages visitors …

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These 19 Retailers Are Keeping Customers Informed During the Refund Process

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Keeping customers guessing is a good way to keep them from coming back.

And, surprisingly, many retailers fail to keep customers fully informed throughout the returns and refunds process.

As part of its ongoing measurement of customer service practices, StellaService tracks notifications sent to StellaService Analysts during the returns process. In 2014 to date, 19 companies included in StellaService’s coverage set have provided notifications for every return. It’s an admirable accomplishment and it will be interesting to see how many of the retailers will stay consistent throughout the remainder of the year.

The most common communications received by StellaService Analysts are:

  • Product is en route back to the warehouse
  • Product was received at the warehouse/Return was processed
  • Notice of no need to return item to receive a full or partial refund or credit
  • Refund/credit is being processed or is complete
  • Notification of an issue with the refund or credit
  • Refund/credit amount …

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