Tuesday, February 10, 2009

eCommerce Customer Service Slips

According to the E-tailing Group’s 11th annual Mystery Shopping Study of the top 100 online retailers, customer service levels slipped in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared to the quarter in 2007, reports Multichannel Merchant.

Only nine e-tailers -- compared to last year’s 11 -- passed the study’s nine main criteria requiring that:

--The e-tailer’s Website must have an 800- or toll-free telephone number present
--The site must have accurate keyword search
--It must take four or fewer days to receive a package
--Customer service must adequately and correctly answer an e-mail question within 24 hours; providing a specific answer
--Customer service rep product knowledge when calling toll free must be 2.0 or higher on a scale of 3.0
--Six or fewer clicks to checkout
--E-mail shipping confirmation sent
--E-mail order confirmation sent with order number included
--Real time inventory in shopping cart or product page

Specific areas where e-tailers’ customer service slipped include:

--Customer service hours were more limited; the number of e-tailers offering 24/7 access down fell to 27% in the fourth quarter of 2008 vs. 39% in 2007.
--The average number of business days to receive an item was up slightly to 4.76 days vs. 4.18 days in 2007.
--Fewer merchants sent e-mail shipping confirmations (84% vs. 95% in 2007).

But according to E-tailing Group president Lauren Freedman, the number-one area in which e-tailers have slipped the most is CSR product knowledge.

“There’s more outsourcing of the call centers, people aren’t as vigilant about training, and it seems like there’s less product knowledge,” she says. It appears some merchants are cutting back on agent training to cut costs. “Sure, there’s CSRs who are really confident and they’re really good – but there’s also a lot of CSRs who are only able to take an order, and that results in a lot of frustration,” says Freedman.

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