30 Seconds or Less: Last Year’s Top Phone Support for Black Friday/Cyber Monday


Consumers are expected to do more of their holiday shopping online this year, eschewing the in-store doorbuster sales that have drawn crowds in years past.

That doesn’t mean shoppers won’t have questions along their buying journey. And, since they’re likely shopping from the comfort of their couch, rather than in a store staffed with associates to answer questions, it’s a safe assumption that contact center volume will likely see a serious spike over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend.

StellaService collects customer service performance data from retailers on a daily basis, and increases its sample over the four-day holiday shopping weekend. In 2013, StellaService placed five calls each day to 60 of the most popular online retailers, amounting to 1,200 calls during the four-day shopping bonanza.

Considering historical retailer performance, what should shoppers expect when they dial their favorite shop with a question?

Last year, high-end apparel retailer Net-A-Porter set …

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Our Favorite New Customer Service TV Commercials

To celebrate the New Year, we thought we’d share some of our favorite new TV commercials, which of course poke fun at embarrassingly bad customer service.  You think companies are starting to get a clue that great customer service is no longer just a “nice to have”…?

These commercials were all posted to YouTube within the last few weeks — enjoy!

And an update recommended by our friends at GetHuman.com, a recently released DIRECTV commercial:

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Holidays Bring Joyful and Frustrating Customer Service for Online Shoppers (Part 1 – Phone Support)

Click to enlarge

Note: this is the first in a three part series looking at the customer service performance of the top 25 online retailers during the 2011 Black Friday through Cyber Monday weekend. View Part 2 (Email Support) and Part 3 (Live Chat Support) for a complete view on how the largest online retailers cared for customers during the big shopping holiday.

Despite the many ways consumers can connect with a company for customer service, the telephone is still the most widely used customer service channel for online shoppers. According to Forrester, 69% of online consumers use the phone when seeking customer service help (followed by 55% who use email).

As a result, we think online shoppers should be especially aware of the findings from our 2011 Cyber Monday Customer Service study. For the first time, STELLAService is providing an unprecedented inside look at which stores provide joyful customer service during the holidays, and which stores are likely to deliver a full-serving of slow, …

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The Results Are In! Best Place to Purchase the iPhone 4S Online Is…

Benchmarking iPhone 4S sellers


After an extensive evaluation of all online retailers who (seemingly) sell iPhones, as well as a deep dive into the online features, policies and customer service performance of the “authorized” online stores to sell the iPhone, we found there’s no reason to shop anywhere else but Apple.com for the new iPhone 4S.

Below are the details of our findings:

With lines for buying the iPhone 4S expected to wrap around city blocks (even internationally already!), and with no guarantees you will even get the new phone after waiting hours on line, you’re far better off purchasing the iPhone 4S over the Web from the comfort of your own home (or wherever you might be).

Since the price of the phone is the same across all online sellers, it’s a no-brainer to buy from the online retailer with the best service.  When it comes to the iPhone, there’s no site better than Apple.com.

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Help Me Customer Service…Hurricane Irene Damaged My Travel Plans


John (my co-founder) and I started to get nervous last Wednesday that our weekend travel plans would get canceled due to Hurricane Irene, so we did what most people did: we called the airlines to check on flight status, cancellation policies and airport closures.

While we waited on hold for several minutes, we thought what any entrepreneur in the customer service space would think: how will the contact centers of the country’s largest airlines perform under the stresses and high inquiry volumes caused by Hurricane Irene?

Well, since it just so happens we are in the business of evaluating and rating customer service performance, we mobilized our network of “mystery shoppers on steroids” to find out, and here’s what we found:


STELLAService originally excluded replies from tweets sent to Continental’s Twitter account since it stated that its Twitter account is no longer active. Even though United and Continental have merged and now use a single active Twitter handle, …

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Sick of Being Told to Go Climb a (Phone) Tree?

Avg Hold Time

Ever been told to “Go Climb a Tree“?  Well, we have and it’s quite rude.  Unless you’re remarkably dense (or you’re a squirrel), being told to go climb a tree is something no online shopper should experience.  With that in mind, why are so many retailers eschewing good customer service and essentially telling us to do just that? 

Using data for the power of good, we’ve come up with some interesting customer service facts about the use of phone-trees and how it impacts retailer call hold times.  Only 21 of the Internet’s top 100 retailers connect shoppers directly to a live agent. That list expands to 22 if we also include 1-800 CONTACTS, which falls just outside the top 100 at #101 (We’re especially impressed that a business that bears its customer service phone number as its name, which leads to even higher call volume, steers clear of an IVR to ensure the best possible experience for shoppers).

Unfortunately for shoppers, …

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Never Wait On Hold Again. No Joke!


Here at STELLAService, we try not to name names when complaining, but I’m sure you can think of a company whose customer service call hold times are consistently so long that you have to block out a time for it in your schedule.

What if I told you that you’ll never have to wait on hold again? Meet LucyPhone, a free service dedicated to preventing the many headaches, neck cramps, and frustration caused by long hold times. Featured most recently in a New York Times article and also on Lifehacker and The Consumerist blogs, LucyPhone does the holding for you. Log on to LucyPhone.com and create your free account. Back on the homepage, you can search for the company within their existing directory of used numbers, or enter the number you wish to call. You then enter your own phone number, and click start. Within seconds, LucyPhone calls you, and reminds you how things work, then connects you to the number you entered online. Things start off as they normally would, until you get put on …

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Hi, My Name Is…Personalization McPersonalization

Some critics are talking about how the world of e-commerce lacks the personal experience of shopping in a store. Without being face to face, often times what we’re also missing is the relationships with the store employees.

Perhaps the difference is more noticeable for me. I grew up in a town where any franchise-style stores are banned to help preserve the town’s beauty. Sounds crazy right? I loved it. When you have go to a different Mom and Pop store for each thing you need, the store clerks get to know you. Even with  big discount stores in the next town over, I chose to stay loyal to the Mom and Pop stores for the relationships I made and the way they made me feel. I’m sure you can think of a store that you go back to for the same reasons.

You know that one website where every time you sign on someone smiles at you? Oh yeah, that doesn’t exist (and would actually be kind of creepy). But one important gesture that websites can make to their customers is to …

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Sen. Schumer wants more transparency. What do you want?

Call Center

Earlier this month, New York Senator Charles Schumer proposed radical legislation that would create cost incentives for companies to keep customer service jobs in the United States. His proposal charges companies a $0.25 excise tax (a big number!) on calls transferred to call centers outside of the country. As you’re probably aware, many American companies outsource their customer service representative (CSR) positions to foreign countries because of reduced labor costs, a practice that many feel reduces the quality of service provided and also takes jobs away from Americans.

In addition to penalizing companies who outsource this function of their business, the bill would also require companies to disclose (via an automated voice system, I’d imagine) which country a customer service representative is handling a call from. This requirement would lift some of the fog from the hazy call center landscape and provide online shoppers with unprecedented insight as to how …

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I say tomato, you say tomato

We all know that it’s difficult to write clearly. Take this sign as an example:

Yes, I’ll admit that this picture was taken in a foreign country and most likely written by someone who had a few too many cocktails during their Rosetta Stone session. Nonetheless, I am sure you can relate to being in a writer’s funk.

What about speaking clearly? Do you think you’re better at conveying your message when speaking aloud? I’m not sure either. But what I do know is that you should not let an interactive voice response (IVR) system help you decide. What’s an IVR, you say? An IVR is a phone based system that allows customers to complete an agent-less transaction through self-service. You know, it’s the robot on the other end of the phone that “better directs” your call whenever you ring a customer support hotline. I personally find IVR systems annoying and on top of that, they have me convinced I have marbles in my mouth. Here’s …

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