How Fast Do Top Internet Retailers Respond to Customers?

Customer serviceNobody will argue against good customer service, and any company looking to provide it knows that one of the biggest factors customers use to gauge it is speed: How quickly did someone pick up the customer's call or write them back? A new study out Monday reveals there are some fairly big disparities in customer response times among the Internet's top 100 retailers. The difference between being the fastest and the slowest can be a matter of minutes on hold or days waiting for a emailed reply. The study was conducted by STELLAService, which used a network of full-time mystery shoppers to evaluate each site, making more than 1,200 interactions via phone and email.

"Customer service is a key differentiator for a lot of Internet players," said STELLAService co-founder Jordy Leiser. "Consumers have a lot of choices and being fast or slow could be the difference between whether someone who tries your site comes back again or goes elsewhere."
SierraTradingPost.com ranked first when it comes to the shortest average amount of time that customers have to wait on hold before talking to a live customer service representative (6 seconds), while OfficeDepot.com (ODP) earned first place for responding to customer emails fastest (48 minutes). Only one company, DisneyStore.com (DIS) ranked among the top 10 for both speediest email support (1:47:40) and phone support (12 seconds). Results and charts here.

Seconds On Hold, Less Than a Day for Email

According to the study, 31 of the top 100 retailers clocked in with average hold times of less than one minute, with the average time to reach a live agent being 1 minute, 41 seconds. The longest hold times occurred on Mondays and Fridays; Sunday was the easiest day to reach a live representative. Out of the top 100 Internet retailers, 80% offer call support on Sunday.
Of those top 100, the five companies with the shortest call hold times are: SierraTradingPost.com (6 seconds), YOOX.com (11 seconds)(YOOX), DisneyStore.com (12 seconds), UrbanOutfitters.com (17 seconds) (URBN) , and Grainger.com (21 seconds) (GWW), while the companies with the longest call hold times are: BarnesandNoble.com.com (8 minutes, 3 seconds) (BKS), CSNStores.com (7 minutes, 20 seconds), Macys.com (7 minutes, 12 seconds) (M), Zones.com (6 minutes, 56 seconds), and GreenMountainCoffee.com (4 minutes, 50 seconds) (GMCR).
The study found the average email response time across all merchants to be much, much longer -- approximately 17 hours. OfficeDepot.com, with the quickest email response time, is followed by MusiciansFriend.com (58 minutes, 40 seconds), Diapers.com (1:23:48), DisneyStore.com (1:47:40), and Abercrombie.com (1:50:45) (ANF). The companies with the longest email response times take days: Crateandbarrel.com (88:30:24), Fingerhut.com (79:29:30), Dell.com (65:10:45)(DELL), SwissColony.com (52:29:15), and MarketAmerica.com (39:35:36). Interestingly, Fingerhut and MarketAmerica made the top 10 list for shortest times on hold, so if you need customer service from them, don't email -- pick up the phone.
Other notable findings from the study include:
  • The Automotive Parts/Accessories category produced the fastest average e-mail reply time at 3 hours, 38 minutes, led by USAutoParts.com.
  • The Specialty/Non-Apparel and Office Supplies categories provided the most readily available phone support, with both categories averaging hold times of approximately one minute.
  • The Books/Music/Video category averaged the longest call hold time -- just over four minutes -- with BarnesandNoble.com (8 minutes, 12 seconds) asking customers to wait the longest.
Of the top 100 retailers, the ten companies with the shortest average call hold times are:
  1. SierraTradingPost.com (6 seconds)Sierra
  2. YOOX.com (11 seconds)
  3. DisneyStore.com (12 seconds)
  4. UrbanOutfitters.com (17 seconds)
  5. Grainger.com (21 seconds)
  6. Nordstrom.com (21 seconds)
  7. Fingerhut.com (23 seconds)
  8. MarketAmerica (25 seconds)
  9. LLBean.com (25 seconds)
  10. Cabelas.com (27 seconds)
The 10 companies with the quickest average email response times are:
  1. Office DepotOfficeDepot.com (48 minutes)
  2. MusiciansFriend.com (58 minutes, 40 seconds)
  3. Diapers.com (1:23:48)
  4. DisneyStore.com (1:47:40)
  5. Abercrombie.com (1:50:45)
  6. USAutoParts.net (3:38:00)
  7. Gilt.com (4:43:00)
  8. PCMall.com (4:49:48)
  9. Kohls.com (5:02.00)
  10. Coldwatercreek.com (5:06:10)

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Angela Dia Guerrero

Great article! It's a shame some of those websites' international customer service isn't as responsive though.

July 31 2014 at 4:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jess Ferres

Good customer service is essential to every business' survival and success. I have had some negative experiences with a number of online shops in the past and, as a result of that, I promised myself that I would never buy from them again. I am sure that most consumers think like that too.

July 31 2014 at 4:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tara

Good customer service is very important. I don't think there is anything more important, except the product. Even if the product isn't the best and the service is wonderful it makes everything seem better.

Tara | http://www.audibleim.com/product/in_the_zone_-_beginning_clarinet

January 30 2014 at 6:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ariasullivan

Thanks for sharing this article. I know that when I have a problem that requires a call to customer service, waiting can create such a negative impression that I never want to go to that store again. Which is precisely why I'm glad to see this list of companies with such good response times. I know that when I buy my new contractor table saw next week, for example, that I will definitely be looking to shop at companies from this list. I've also had really good experiences with this company (http://www.woodworkingmachineryandsupplies.com/category_s/102.htm)

October 31 2011 at 3:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
FastCustomer

Great article! We've registered hold times of more than TWO HOURS, which is incredible. Who wants to wait on hold for that much time?!

Anyway, having to wait on hold -- and not wanting to do it, ever -- is the reason why we created called FastCustomer. It's a free app for iPhone and Android that people can use if they'd like to skip hold the next time they call customer service at 2,400+ companies. :)

http://www.fastcustomer.com

August 02 2011 at 3:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply