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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Let Back-to-School Be Your Holiday Rehearsal


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

Shoppers looking for back to school items aren’t so unlike shoppers that will be looking for gifts in the coming holiday season.

Back to school, the second-busiest retail season of the year, is upon us. Though dwarfed by holiday sales, the $72.5 billion consumers spent, per National Retail Federation data, on back-to-school/college supplies in 2013 is nothing to sneeze at.

As more shoppers increasingly head online in search of back-to-school deals, they are seeking convenience and flexibility to breeze through lengthy shopping lists in just a few clicks. As a result, e-commerce retailers are challenged to provide the most frictionless shopping experience possible for these busy customers.

And, these shoppers aren’t so unlike those that will be returning in a few months to buy a bundle of gifts. So here’s a tip: treat Back to School like a dress rehearsal for the holiday season. It offers a prime …

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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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