Brand Consistency Study: How Top Department Stores Represent Consumer Brands Through Customer Service

brand-consistency

Let’s say Chris is in the market for a waterproof watch.

He finds a Gucci watch on a department store’s website and calls the customer service number to make sure the item can survive his upcoming diving trip. The agent says yes. Chris orders the watch.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Chris called the store once. StellaService called the store four times. And, we’re not sure if that watch is waterproof or not.

In fact, StellaService learned that the information given by customer service agents from the same retailer can be wildly inconsistent.

In a two-week study involving 384 interactions, StellaService tested the consistency of answers to customer service questions about the same products.

DOWNLOAD THE BRAND CONSISTENCY STUDY [PDF]

We picked two products for four brands — Estée Lauder, Gucci, Lacoste and Lancôme. In calls to the retailer’s main customer service number, we asked the same question about that product four times to six separate department stores …

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What You Can Learn from Nordstrom’s Two-Pronged Approach to Customer Service

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Editor’s note: This guest article is written by Micah Solomon, a bestselling author, speaker and consultant on customer service, the customer experience, and hospitality. You can download a free chapter of Solomon’s latest book, High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service, at micahsolomon.com.

When I hear people discuss Nordstrom — the Seattle-based fashion retailer renowned for customer service — one speaker or the other tends to bring up the idea that Nordstrom’s employee handbook is only a single line: “Use your best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.”

So, let’s start there: Is this actually the entire Nordstrom employee handbook? Nah. (In spite of what you’ve heard, and in spite of the ill-sourced Wikipedia entry on the subject.)

But the statement does tidily sum up the first element of the Nordstrom customer service ethos: the power of hiring nice, capable people and empowering them to use their judgment.

There is, however, a second …

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IBM: Higher Consumer Expectations Will Drive Future of Retailing

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A new IBM Global Consumer Study says “showrooming” seems to be leveling off and a group of “Trailblazers” with high expectations are leading the path to an era of self-service retail.

The latest IBM Institute for Business Value Global Consumer Study investigates shoppers’ omnichannel expectations to find out how imminent is the arrival of this new retailing era. IBM surveyed 30,554 consumers in 16 countries to discover their attitudes about shopping, particularly as it pertains to adopting omnichannel capabilities.

“It’s becoming all the more critical for retailers to connect with consumers one-on-one,” the report said.

The study says consumers are beginning to become impatient with the retailers that don’t offer important omnichannel benefits.

“To stay competitive in addressing the greater expectations of today’s shoppers, retailers need to do three things quickly: enhance the store’s appeal using SoLoMo (social, local, mobile) capabilities; enable shoppers’ …

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Stella Benchmarks: Net-A-Porter.com Pairs High Fashion With High-Quality Service

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Shoppers visit Net-A-Porter.com for high-quality fashion, and they’re getting the customer service to match.

Self-described as “world’s premier online luxury fashion destination,” Net-A-Porter.com topped all competitors across all retail verticals for customer service in February, according to Stella Benchmarks.

The retailer was particularly strong in fulfillment, besting all other retailers in both Shipping and Returns.

Net-A-Porter.com provided a pre-paid, adhesive return label in all orders handled by StellaService Analysts. In addition, Net-A-Porter.com issued refunds in less than a week on average.

“Net-A-Porter knows its customer base and that’s definitely apparent in its service efforts,” said Kevon Hills, Vice President of Research at StellaService. “Orders arrive fast and they’re beautifully packaged, which is what a luxury shopper demands. They also put a lot of thought into reducing the friction involved in the returns …

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The Best Companies Make Convenience A Top Priority

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Jordy Leiser is Co-founder and CEO of StellaService.

Last year Amazon.com, the self-proclaimed world’s most customer-obsessed online retailer, unveiled a game-changing customer service offering called Mayday. And although it has nothing to do with the company’s much-hyped plan for using drones to deliver packages, it, too, is all about convenience.

Mayday is a help button on the company’s Kindle Fire HDX tablet that connects the user directly to an Amazon representative via live video. (The user can see the Amazon agent, but the agent can only hear the user–so don’t worry about your bed-head.) The service is designed to provide help with any type of policy or product question within 15 seconds, 24/7, free of charge. And the company announced that its thousands of Mayday Tech Advisors were able to not only meet that goal but clock an average response time of just 9 seconds on Christmas Day. Now that’s true convenience.

Customers Desire Convenience

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Amazon Hikes Cost of Annual Prime Membership

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For the first time in nine years Amazon has announced plans to increase the cost of a Prime membership, which will rise $20 to $99 per year.

Amazon hasn’t disclosed exact numbers, but did say Prime membership is in the tens of millions, and that it signed up one million new members in the third week of December alone. The service includes free 2-day shipping on 20 million items and access to a library of digital books and streaming video.

“The intersection of consistency and convenience for these customers has attracted so many people,” StellaService CEO Jordy Leiser said in an interview with the Associated Press. “It shaped the expectations of everyone in the industry.”

StellaService data shows that Amazon shipped packages in 3 days, 10 hours in the second half of 2013. StellaService Analysts select standard shipping at checkout.

Amazon also announced a $10 increase for student Prime memberships to $49 annually. The Amazon Fresh same-day grocery …

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These Retailers Keep Sloppy Spelling and Grammar Gaffes Out of the Contact Center

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Whether it’s a typographical error or a their/there/they’re mix-up, spelling and grammar gaffes from your customer service agents have a negative affect on your brand.

We set out to identify which retailers are the best at delivering emails without grammatical or spelling errors. For this study we looked at email responses received from January 1 to February 28, 2014.

And while no single retailer had a perfect score for this time period, there was a set of companies that were able to score high marks for spelling and grammar accuracy. In order to be included in this study, retailers had to meet a response rate within three days of 85%. StellaService Analysts score this metric as yes or no to the question: Did the email exhibit correct grammar and spelling?

StellaService Analysts email, call and live chat leading retailers on a daily basis to stress test the performance of customer service departments.

For more context, we then layered in speed of response.

Of the 20 retailers with …

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One Box, Two Boxes, Three Boxes: Approaches Vary For Multi-Product Orders

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You order three products: peanut butter, jelly and a loaf of bread.

When the delivery arrives, the box only contains jelly. Cardboard and jelly — not going to make the best sandwich.

Another delivery truck arrives. This time…just peanut butter. Another day passes. Another delivery truck arrives with a third box full of bread. And, finally, it’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich time.

In this scenario, a single order for multiple products resulted in multiple packages and multiple deliveries. And, that’s not uncommon.

StellaService set out to study multiple product orders by ordering three products in the same order from 97 retailers. StellaService Analysts placed two multiple-product orders – one in September 2013 and another in October 2013.

Here’s the breakdown of how those 194 orders were delivered:

  • 56% of retailers delivered three products in a single package for both orders
  • 10% of retailers delivered two packages for both three-product orders
  • 12% of retailers …

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Book of the Month: Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service by Ted Kinni

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Walt Disney shows Disneyland plans to Orange County officials in December 1954. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.

In the Disney Institute’s Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, author Ted Kinni reveals the secrets to delivering magic to your customers the Walt Disney way.

The Walt Disney World resort enjoys a 70% return customer rate, and the Disney Approach to service has led to three decades of providing professional development programs through its Disney Institute. But just how does a company that was “all started by a mouse” and now employs 175,000 cast members worldwide ensure that its customers’ expectations are consistently being exceeded on such a grand scale? The Disney Magic, as you’ll read in Be Our Guest, is part art and part science — and Kinni details how the company approaches raising the bar at every customer touchpoint.

We think this book makes for a great read regardless of your industry or job title, …

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StellaService Study: Are Your Contact Center Agents Ignoring Questions From Customers?

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Operating a contact center, or paying a third party to manage it for your business, is an expensive endeavor. One of the key factors that drives up costs is contact volume, or the number of inbound inquiries being handled by agents.

So, if you know that reducing inbound inquiries reduces costs, the goal is to find a way to eliminate a customer’s need to pick up the phone or send an email. To achieve this goal, there are several factors to consider. A good place to start is making sure your agents are answering every question posed by the customer.

As part of StellaService’s normal operations, StellaService Analysts include two questions in every email to customer service departments. This metric helps retailers to determine if their agents are being thorough, eliminating the need for another contact.

For example, in one interaction from this study, the agent was asked: “If I’ve already placed an order, can I get a faster shipping method? Can I change the shipping …

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