Please Hold: 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," STELLAService co-founder Jordy Leiser told DailyFinance. "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." 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 (ODP) earned first place for responding to customer emails fastest (48 minutes). Only one company, (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: (6 seconds), (11 seconds)(YOOX), (12 seconds), (17 seconds) (URBN) , and (21 seconds) (GWW), while the companies with the longest call hold times are: (8 minutes, 3 seconds) (BKS), (7 minutes, 20 seconds), (7 minutes, 12 seconds) (M), (6 minutes, 56 seconds), and (4 minutes, 50 seconds) (GMCR).

The study found the average email response time across all merchants to be much, much longer -- approximately 17 hours., with the quickest email response time, is followed by (58 minutes, 40 seconds), (1:23:48), (1:47:40), and (1:50:45) (ANF). The companies with the longest email response times take days: (88:30:24), (79:29:30), (65:10:45)(DELL), (52:29:15), and (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
  • 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 (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. (6 seconds)Sierra
  2. (11 seconds)
  3. (12 seconds)
  4. (17 seconds)
  5. (21 seconds)
  6. (21 seconds)
  7. (23 seconds)
  8. MarketAmerica (25 seconds)
  9. (25 seconds)
  10. (27 seconds)
The 10 companies with the quickest average email response times are:
  1. Office (48 minutes)
  2. (58 minutes, 40 seconds)
  3. (1:23:48)
  4. (1:47:40)
  5. (1:50:45)
  6. (3:38:00)
  7. (4:43:00)
  8. (4:49:48)
  9. (5:02.00)
  10. (5:06:10)

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Geo West

We run a small online business at and we have our email accounts on our smartphones so that 24/7 we can reply to customer queries. Obviously this can be quite testing on our free time, and once we expand it'll be more difficult to sustain but for now we pride ourselves in our customer service. Customer satisfaction is completely, without a doubt, hugely important in retail business.

September 13 2013 at 7:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jake Brady

I have a gift shopping service do a lot of my shopping for me. This has only been for the past couple of months. I only have them shop at stores that I feel have given me good customer service in the past. Good customer service can really help bring loyal customers back!

July 10 2012 at 11:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've found that even small online retailers are super responsive. When contacting Castle Ink by email I received a response within just 15 minutes. Now that's fast.....

August 10 2011 at 5:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why are there no more mortgage fraud articles on AOL's Daily Finance Articles? I miss Abigail Fields.

June 16 2011 at 4:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


June 15 2011 at 4:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Neta Jaynes

This is the era when older people are still here- You haven't killed us all off yet, tho most places seem to be trying. We pay our bills on time, collect no welfare since we have worked all our lives and saved, No one can prevent us from having the problems of trying to cope with the newest, latest inventions. If it weren't for us, these wouldn't exist. Now they become more complex and the older generation can't keep up with the progress and are left behind to struggle with the stuff the new generation seems to want. Let's bring our work force back to the US and make our country what it once was instead of a generation of unemployed young people trying to compete with "***********" and businesses who have their work force overseas.

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June 14 2011 at 10:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The time to just get a response isn't important, however, the time to get a good response is.
I wish someone would do a study to determine which firms respond after only reading the first line of an email.

June 14 2011 at 4:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to poloname's comment
Janie Graham

I definitely agree with Poloname. One time a bank teller gave me the wrong checking number and I used it to pay for a purchase of some western shirts online. Because I used someone else's account, the person denied purchasing it and so the store wasn't paid. It tacked interest onto my bill, but I was able to dispute it with their customer service and everything turned out perfectly fine. is great about that.

October 28 2011 at 10:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Don't limit it to internet retailers ... broaden it to include ALL retailers. To most, "customer service" is simply a quaint concept and the telephone has been rendered useless for all practical purposes as a means of doing business. The standard excuses are 1. _________ is in a meeting; 2. Could I put you on hold ? ; 3. Out of country cheap labor "assistants" ; 4. "Let me connect you with someone who can help you" ; 5. "All representatives are serving other customers at the moment. Would you like to leave a message?" ... you get my drift. This is the way management runs things in the pathetic sector. One more thing ... floor personnel that are only qualified to write a sales slip.

June 13 2011 at 9:59 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

They should do a study on bank/credit card customer service. Now there's an abomination. Who knows what country your call is being forwarded to and if you take the rep off of their script they are useless.

June 13 2011 at 9:02 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply