More than a Million Boxes Reused With ‘A Box Life’ Program

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A StellaService Analyst shopping Sorel.com recently noticed an option at checkout that lets shoppers opt in to have their shipment sent in a reused box.

The option caught our analyst by surprise, so we decided to dig in further.

Turns out this eco-friendly initiative began at Columbia Sportswear in 2009. Officially dubbed “A Box Life,” the program enables shoppers to select a used box, each one containing a unique QR Code that tracks everywhere the box is delivered. Shoppers can then share the story of their box on the website ABoxLife.com, where the path of each box is plotted on Google Maps, showing every destination, total miles the box has traveled and how many boxes have been saved in the process.

To date, 1,045,120 boxes have been reused, and the most traveled box on the site has been shipped across more than 11,000 miles.

Columbia created A Box Life with the hope that other companies would join in the effort. Participating brands and retailers include Sorel, Mountain …

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Forrester Report: Every Online Retailer Should Ship-from-Store

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StellaService data shows that Best Buy reduced standard shipping speeds by two days on average due to fulfilling online orders from physical stores. Photo: Mike Mozart / Creative Commons license. 

A recent report from Forrester, Why Every Online Retailer Should Ship-from-Store, looks at the broad opportunity ship-from-store presents for online retailers.

“Online retailers are feeling the pain of Prime. It’s hard to compete with free two-day shipping — few other retailers have the customer base or the deep pockets to develop competitive programs. Ship-from-store programs provide a unique opportunity to level the playing field and get merchandise in the hands of the customer quickly and cheaply.”

Key benefits for retailers that use physical stores to fulfill online orders include increased revenue, margin gains from supply chain optimization and improved customer experience. Therefore, the report’s authors suggest that all online retailers should fulfill from …

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Are You Innovating or Playing Customer Service Catch-Up?

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Jordy Leiser is Co-founder and CEO of StellaService.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about an awesome innovation from Amazon. I would stop if they would stop.

While the company’s new streaming media box, Amazon Fire TV, received a greater share of recent headlines, it was the Amazon Dash that grabbed my attention. The Dash is a wand-like wireless device that includes a microphone and a barcode scanner, enabling users to add items to an AmazonFresh shopping list by scanning a product’s bar code or speaking its name. Need apples? Say, “apples” into the microphone and apples will arrive the next day, touts the Dash launch video.

There are plenty of massive retailers that are still trying to figure out how to migrate their bread-and-butter brick-and-mortar business to an e-commerce model, which brings up a new set of challenges in fulfillment and customer service. Meanwhile, Amazon is installing a checkout lane in the kitchen.

I know much of this technology lives …

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StellaService Study: Mass Merchants Struggle With Shipping Breakable Items

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By Emily Kolodner, Senior Research Associate, StellaService

Everyone has experienced it at least once in their online shopping lives: click the ‘confirm purchase’ button on the item you’ve been pining for, then anxiously check the shipment status on a tracking page until it finally arrives. Except this time, you peel back the tissue only to discover the $50 bottle of liquid concealer you ordered has exploded all over the inside of the box. (Who remembers the Great Nail Polish Fiasco of 2013?)

It’s a nightmare shared by shopper, shipper and carrier alike. While all parties end up paying in the end, the cost is surely steepest for the retailer who not only pays the price to make it right, but also risks losing the business of the disgruntled shopper entirely. Proper protection of items is clearly a priority for most retailers, as only 2% of products ordered in the past 12 months by StellaService Analysts have arrived damaged.

Beauty and cosmetics e-tailers typically are at the …

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Zendesk Releases Google+ Hangouts App for Better Collaboration Amongst Agents

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Screenshot courtesy Zendesk

Customer service platform Zendesk recently released a new application for customers who are looking to improve agent-to-agent collaboration. The new app, which is among 140 available in the platform’s marketplace, could prove to be useful particularly for larger and/or remote teams. Users need to have a Google Apps account, and have their Zendesk admin install the app. After that, a Hangout can be started with just a few clicks.

We spoke with Zendesk Platform Product Manager Maxime Prades to get the scoop on the new Google+ Hangouts app.

Give us a bit of background on the new Zendesk Google+ Hangouts app. How did the idea come about? How long have you been developing the app?

MP: We were approached by Google, whom we work with on a lot of different projects and APIs, to be part of the Hangout API beta. As big users of Google+ Hangouts ourselves we jumped on the opportunity to build something useful for our customers. We’ve been working on this …

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Fab.com Spinoff Hem Aims to Improve Online Furniture Buying

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Image courtesy Hem.com

A Google search for “Ikea furniture assembly” produces an extensive list of people offering such services. It’s a frustrating enough experience for consumers that people seemingly make a living taking on the challenge of building KNOPPARP sofas and BORGSJÖ bookcases.

Assembly is just one frustrating element of buying new furniture that is being tackled by Hem, a new furniture company from the founder of Fab.com. Part of Hem’s sales pitch is “No Tools.”

“Let’s face it. Not everyone is handy,” the company’s website says. “That’s why we’re creating innovative assembly solutions. Many of our products require no tools.”

Hem’s website debuted Wednesday, announced by Fab CEO Jason Goldberg in a tweet. Goldberg calls Hem a “full-stack design company” that will handle “everything from design to product development to manufacturing to technology & logistics.”

The company aims to cut out the middlemen and work …

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New Stella Benchmarks Includes Top 25, L.L.Bean Tops Rankings

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Stella Benchmarks received a fresh look in its most recent release, but there’s a familiar retailer topping the rankings.

L.L.Bean had the overall best customer service performance in May, the second time the retailer has topped the list in the past three months. The retailer’s performance was strong in nearly every area — 4th in Phone, 6th in Email, 8th in Chat and 4th in Returns/Refunds.

Companies that have ranked in the Overall Top 25 every month since January include: Fab, J.Crew, L.L.Bean, Net-A-Porter, Ralph Lauren, Shopbop and Zappos.

Stella Benchmarks are designed to provide consumers with guidance for smarter shopping and retailers with an independent, reliable benchmark for measuring and improving customer service.

Since launching in November 2012, only companies with $100 million in revenue qualified for the rankings across four service areas: Phone, Email, Shipping and Returns/Refunds. Starting in June 2014, showing data from May 2014, all companies evaluated on …

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Sears, Dell, Microsoft CSRs Most Likely to Offer to Complete Transaction

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By Jake Novick, Senior Research Associate, StellaService

One of the mantras we preach here at StellaService is that retailers should view their customer care centers as more than just a black hole for costs. Not only can they be the center of “wow” experiences for customers, a la Lululemon, but also they are the front line contact for many shoppers who are just a few clicks away from making purchases online. Some retailers are taking advantage of this face time with customers by encouraging their agents to offer to complete a transaction for the shopper. Whether it be providing them with a direct phone number to call and complete the sale, or offering a free trial for a “VIP” program.

We began collecting this metric, called “Offered to Complete Transaction” (“OCT”), across all three customer support channels (Phone, Email and Live Chat) in February 2014. We define this as any suggestion made by a CSR that would lead to the transaction of money.

For the past four …

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Love Your Customer and They’ll Love You Back

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This guest post is by J.R. Yates, CEO and Founder of Titanium-Jewelry.com, a StellaService Excellent-rated online jewelry retailer.

We love our customers. We love helping them find the perfect wedding ring. And in some cases our customers love us back and want to show it. That makes everything we do worthwhile.

How do we get our customers to love us back? It requires us to jump through hoops on occasion. Customers ask us to do crazy things sometimes. Like the guy who decided to get married on Friday and needed his ring by Thursday evening, and ordered his wedding band Wednesday afternoon – after UPS picks up. But we made sure to get it there.

Sometimes it’s not quite as involved as getting a wedding ring to a customer in 24 hours. Sometimes the customer needs us to extend her 90-day return privilege. Done. The fellow who needs a Hallmark card put in the package with a special hand written message. Check. The folks who ask us to snap a quick picture of the ring on our finger and …

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Cost-Efficient Tips For Using the Web as a Service Tool

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Jordy Leiser is CEO and Co-founder of StellaService.

It’s no secret that delivering the type of personalized, world-class customer service that can lead to invaluable, long-term customer loyalty requires a strong commitment. Luckily, this commitment may be less of a financial burden than you may think.

In the era in which a shopper can do a quick Google search to find a product’s price from a dozen different retailers, developing a reputation for delivering excellent service can be the deciding factor in converting prospective customers. E-retailers can make customer service a point of distinction without necessarily having large budgets and complicated technology. In some cases, all it takes is a bit of creativity and a commitment to quality service.

Many retailers, some with a lot of loyal customers, have devised ways to be cost-efficient in their service operations while still delighting the customer. Here are a few cost-effective tips to get started, all inspired by …

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