Should You Be Eyeing Google Glass For Service?

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This guest post is by Micah Solomon, a customer service speaker, customer experience consultant, and author.

Virgin Atlantic recently declared that its six-week Google Glass trial has been a raging success. The airline reports that they’ve improved the customer experience for their “Upper Class” passengers by augmenting their customer service team’s capabilities with Google Glass and Sony smartwatches.

Let’s look at what Virgin tested, and then talk about whether you should follow suit. Should those of us in business — particularly those who are in the business of designing customer experiences — hurry to launch similar initiatives?

Virgins Google Glass Trial Run

Let’s say you’re one of Virgin’s most valued passengers. (To be clear: by “valued,” I  don’t mean that the red-clad professional Virgins like your smile, I mean they’ve weighed your wallet and found it to their liking.) During the Google Glass trial, a tech-bespectacled Virgin …

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3 Retailers That Refund Customers Before Items Are Received at the Warehouse

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Leading online retailers are investing in a frictonless returns process for shoppers, recognizing the impact it has on long-term customer loyalty.

We took a closer look at StellaService returns data to explore a couple of trends: First, leading retailers are issuing refunds faster than ever. Second, some retailers are issuing refunds back to customers before the item is received at the warehouse.

A quick look at the top 10 retailers by speed for April 2013 versus April 2014 shows a decrease in Total Days to Refund Processed — a reduction of 1.9 days on average. That may sound minor but the change represents a year-over-year improvement of about 30% and successful investments in more efficient operations.

Looking at a group of 124 of the largest retailers in the U.S., a subset of 18 companies issued refunds in 7 days or less on average for the past 12 months. Of note, 4 of the 18 companies are owned by Amazon.

Retailers with Average Total Days to Refund of 7 Days or Less

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Fab Cuts the Cord on Phone Support

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Fab.com has removed Phone support from its available customer service channels.

“We have chosen to focus our customer service efforts online, since that’s where our consumers shop us,” a Fab.com spokeswoman said in an email. “But we’re never afraid to pick up the phone to sort out more complex inquiries.”

Fab also stopped on May 14 handling inquiries via Twitter submitted to @FabCrackerjacks — previously the main customer service handle. The retailer is now pointing customers to @Fab.

StellaService tests the customer service performance of retailers on a daily basis, placing calls, emails and live chats. StellaService Analysts first noticed that Fab’s Phone support was unresponsive during the week of May 19. The retailer has removed the phone number from its Contact Us page.

The change in service coincided with an announcement that Fab would eliminate a third of its global staff to cut costs and shift strategy. Fab was launched as a design-focused flash …

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In Fashion E-Commerce, Service is the Key Differentiator

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Jordy Leiser is CEO and Co-founder of StellaService.

With global online retail sales poised to reach $1.5 trillion this year — a 20 percent increase over last year, according to eMarketer — there’s no disputing that we’re in the midst of a significant paradigm shift that’s impacting every sector of the fashion industry. Retailers and brands of all sizes, from high street to luxury, are confronted with a growing set of challenges owing to the rapid growth of e-commerce.

And, often, a commitment to customer service is the missing piece in the puzzle for retailers who are hoping to carry the premium in-store experience to digital channels and convert browsers into loyal, repeat customers. Time and again, an emphasis on improving the customer experience has proven to be a key differentiator for e-tailers in today’s competitive environment, where a quick Google search returns many online stores offering the same product at the same price.

In today’s digital environment, the …

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Target Expands Fulfillment Network, Offering Same-day Delivery in Three Markets

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After successful tests in the Minneapolis market, Target will expand the same-day shipping pilot to three U.S. cities starting in June.

For a $10 “rush delivery” fee, customers can place orders up to 1:30 p.m. and receive the order between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. that day. The pilot program will be available to customers in Minneapolis, Boston and Miami.

The news was announced on its May 21 earnings call. Target also announced plans to launch ship-from-store from 136 U.S. locations spanning 38 markets later this year. Turning stores into fulfillment centers will allow the retailer to get products in the hands of online shoppers faster.

“By leveraging the store network as fulfillment centers, we can offer faster standard shipping, typically one to two days, and provide access to store-only items not previously available from Target.com,” said Kathryn Tesija, Chief Merchandise and Supply Chain Officer at Target Corporation. “We will continue to monitor results to determine …

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Nordstrom’s Big Bet on Ecommerce Should Speed Lagging Delivery Times

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Nordstrom plans to invest billions of dollars into ecommerce improvements over the next five years, with a particularly heavy investment slated for technology and fulfillment capabilities.

“We plan to invest $3.9 billion in capital over the next five years as we focus on serving more customers through store and online growth,” Mike Koppel, Nordstrom executive vice president and chief financial officer, said on a May 15 earnings call. “An important element is our technology investments, which represent $1.2 billion or 30% of our capital plan, and approximately 40% of our technology capital relates to infrastructure to support our growth plans and to facilitate enterprise-wide synergies.”

Koppel said 40% of that capital is earmarked for online growth, including expansion of the fulfillment network to increase speed of delivery. Another 20% will support tools for salespeople, such as a new texting platform and point-of-sales technologies.

Nordstrom’s first quarter sales jumped …

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5 Things Elite Customer Service Teams Never Do

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Jordy Leiser is CEO and Co-founder of StellaService.

In any profession, sport, or trade, world-class teams do certain things that separate themselves from others. On the flip side, these elite teams avoid certain activities in order to ensure maximum performance. The world of service is no different.

To provide a truly exceptional experience–one that helps earn that elite reputation with customers–management teams must religiously avoid pitfalls that run-of-the-mill competitors fall into.

Whether your company is scaling rapidly or just starting to build a solid foundation for the future, don’t let your team fall into these common traps:

1. After receiving the same inquiries over and over, reps start acting as human FAQ machines.
People don’t contact customer service to have policies read back to them verbatim. They want help making the right decision. Elite agents not only know the answers (or where to find them), but they drive customers to the right course …

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Room for Improvement: FedEx Pricing Change Puts Spotlight on Poor Package Fit

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FedEx orders will not be judged by weight alone. Bulky boxes, beware.

In January, FedEx will apply “dimensional weight pricing” to all ground shipments, meaning packages that measure three cubic feet or more will now cost more to send. The change is expected to affect a third of FedEx’s U.S. ground shipments.

The Wall Street Journal noted, “The change in pricing could dramatically affect either online shoppers or retailers or both. Someone will have to swallow the estimated hundreds of millions of dollars in extra shipping costs.”

No doubt, retailers will be looking to use smaller packaging to cut costs.

As part of its ongoing evaluations, StellaService grades Package Fit for every order received. Looking at 2,253 packages delivered by FedEx in 2013, 9% had “poor” Package Fit – deemed extremely wasteful and inefficient.

StellaService Analysts often see extreme offenders of poor Package Fit — candy bar-size products in boxes appropriate for boots. The data …

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Stella Benchmarks: Net-A-Porter.com Delivers Luxury Experience Across Shipping and Returns

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Net-A-Porter.com, a purveyor of luxury fashion across hundreds of brands, is building an online business that aims to compete with the experience shoppers find at their favorite luxury brick-and-mortar boutique.

Of course, the logistics of shipping and returns are a thorn for online retailers, but Net-A-Porter.com’s focus on those areas is helping the retailer stay competitive in a landscape that is crowded with players pushing the same luxury goods.

And, in the month of April, that focus led Net-A-Porter.com to the top of Stella Benchmarks. In addition to leading all other retailers in overall performance, Net-A-Porter.com was also best overall at Returns and tied with Amazon.com-owned Shopbop.com for Shipping performance.

“Of the hundreds of orders received by StellaService Analysts each month, Net-A-Porter.com consistently delivers packages that stand apart from the rest,” said Kevon Hills, Vice President of Research at StellaService. “The Net-A-Porter.com team seems to …

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5 Questions with GripeO Chief Executive Mike Klanac

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Just two months after receiving a set of quality steak knives as a gift, Mike Klanac was cutting a pizza when one of the knives broke. Frustrated, Klanac says he almost tossed it in the trash but his wife encouraged him to take up the issue with the company.

“Thus began an odyssey of dropped calls, confusion, social media, and eventually, two months later, a new knife,” Klanac says. “I love the way that technology allows us to innovate the existing way we do things, and I quickly realized: we can do this better.”

Klanac had been previously involved with several successful startups, and assembled a team to work on a “minimum viable product” and started to prove out the concept. The feedback was strong, and shortly thereafter they launched GripeO, a platform that helps foster better communication between consumers and the businesses they have issues with.

We spoke with Klanac to get a better understanding of how GripeO works and what’s ahead …

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