Sears Rolls Out Curbside Returns, Exchanges

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Sears has added returns and exchanges to its popular In-Vehicle Pickup service. The new integrated retail service, powered by the Shop Your Way mobile app, lets members pick up, return or exchange their purchases for free – guaranteed in five minutes or less – without ever leaving their vehicle.

It’s a great option for consumers, as Sears has struggled with refund speed in 2014. StellaService data shows the retailer’s Total Days to Refund has doubled since March, now averaging close to 14 days through August. Sears trails competitors like Amazon, Target and Walmart in the metric.

But, Sears has certainly found success in leveraging its physical stores to ship products faster. And, earlier this year the retailer aimed to better connect in-store and online shopping with the launch of In-Vehicle Pickup.

Curbside returns and exchanges takes that concept of convenience to the next level.

This is how it works:

  • To start an in-vehicle return or exchange, a customer visits sears.com, …

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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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Sears Launches Curbside Pickup With a 5-Minute Guarantee

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Sears is taking customer service out to the curb – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The retailer has launched an initiative called In-Vehicle Pickup that allows shoppers to visit the department store and wait in a designated curbside space for a store associate to carry the item to the customer’s car.

Sears guarantees a shopper will not wait more than five minutes or they will receive a $5 coupon for their next in-store purchase.

Buy-online, pick-up-in-store was already an option for Sears shoppers, but the new initiative provides extra convenience.

Online shoppers that choose In-Vehicle Pickup are asked at checkout to provide a description of their vehicle, such as “red Chevrolet truck.” They’re then prompted to download the Shop Your Way mobile app, which is required to complete the pickup at the store. Once at the store, the customer simply taps a button on the app to tell the store they have arrived, which launches a five-minute countdown clock. If the shopper …

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Retailers Offer One-on-One Service Through Google Helpouts

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Google Helpouts, launched late last year, provides a platform for “real-time commerce” by connecting experts with consumers over live video chat. A few online retailers have been quick to jump on the platform to connect one-on-one with customers.

Customers pay per minute or per Helpout session through Google Wallet, but there are also many free sessions available. Helpouts are currently available in the following categories:

  • Art & Music
  • Computers & Electronics
  • Cooking
  • Education
  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Fitness & Nutrition
  • Health
  • Home & Garden

ASOS was the first retailer I came across on the Helpouts platform, listed under Fashion & Beauty. The UK-based retailer offers three free Hangouts for consumers to choose from — a general fashion advice Helpout, a styling Helpout targeted to male shoppers, and a Helpout that gives advice on stocking up on the “best jersey separates for a fresh new season.” ASOS describes its Google Helpouts to …

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Package Delivery a Competitive Weapon for Retailers This Holiday Season

“Cameron Holloway, a sales associate at Sears in the Cumberland Mall here, is hard at work helping a customer—a virtual shopper 300 miles away in Semmes, Ala. The Sears website just sent a message to Mr. Holloway’s iPhone telling him the customer wants a $145 18-inch Craftsman chain saw, so he retrieves one from the store floor, labels it and loads it onto a pallet next to cameras, tools and other holiday gifts. At 5 p.m. a United Parcel Service Inc. truck will arrive to ship it west, and Mr. Holloway will have successfully kept Sears from losing another holiday shopper to Amazon.com, Inc.”If you want to go head-to-head with Amazon, you go out and build a bunch of distribution centers,” said Jeff Starecheski, vice president of logistics services with Sears Holding Corp., referring to the dramatic steps some competitors consider to stave off the e-commerce rival. But Sears and its sister retail chain Kmart blanket the country with about 2,000 stores. …

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Sears’ In-Store Sales Through App Hit $550 Million Last Year

“According to a study from Xtreme Labs, 58 percent of smartphone owners use mobile for store-related shopping and are 14 percent more likely than non-smartphone shoppers to decide to purchase in-store. Retailers have taken note. ‘Customers have changed the way they shop,’ said Imran Jooma, EVP of marketing, online and financial services at Sears. ‘As retailers, we must change the way we sell.’ According to Jooma, in 2012, Sears processed more than 1.5 million transactions and more than $550 million in sales in-store through its app alone.” [Source: Digiday]

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Holidays Bring Joyful and Frustrating Customer Service for Online Shoppers (Part 2 – Email Support)

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Note: this is the second 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 1 (Phone 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.

According to Forrester, 55% of online shoppers use email when attempting to solve a customer service problem.  Most consumers expect relatively quick responses to email inquiries. In fact, if you’re shopping online and have a question, what’s the point of sending an email if the company doesn’t get back to you for days? The product, special deal or issue in question may no longer be relevant by the time you get a reply.

To give shoppers a better idea of which stores plan to keep you in the loop and which stores are likely to dismiss your message into the email abyss as you do your online holiday shopping, STELLAService …

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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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Back to school? Shop at Costco.com

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It’s that time of year again when millions of people, young and old, are racing to prepare for the first day back to school. For many, this is an exciting time, when personal aspirations meet opportunity and anything seems possible.

However, we know that this is also an anxious and nerve-racking time, when the “to-do” list seems to command all the attention. At STELLAService, we understand that students (and parents, of course) have enough to worry about, so we wanted to help by evaluating the Internet’s biggest one-stop shops for hassle-free back-to-school shopping.

We evaluated 15 of the Internet’s leading online retailers, including Amazon, Costco, Walmart, Buy.com, and Overstock.com. We measured the retailers according to six best practices exemplifying both speed and convenience during the back-to-school crunch, including shipping, returns, and payment options.

We’re excited to share these results below:

Costco.com offers the most hassle-free …

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The E-comm Big Three: Price, Selection, and Service

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So I’ll admit it, I was eavesdropping the other night at dinner. I heard a man complaining to his wife about a poor experience he had shopping online (it didn’t hurt that the guy was one of those loud talkers). Anyway, he went on and on about some expensive tennis racquet he wanted to buy and how he didn’t really know which site to buy it from (apparently there were numerous online shops that carried the one he wanted).  He ultimately purchased from one of the sites and, of course, they sent him the wrong racquet! They made him pay for return shipping and apparently no one in the company’s customer service department could be bothered for the hassle it caused this guy. He was pissed. I, on the other hand, leaned back in my chair and smiled. I know, I know…not cool to take pleasure in stuff like this, but what a case study for STELLA!

Over the past couple of years my co-founder and I have had the opportunity to chat with some of brightest folks in …

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