Amazon, Nordstrom, L.L. Bean Top Customer Service List

Discussion
Nov 03, 2006

By George Anderson


When 8,100 consumers were asked to name the companies that delivered the highest level of customer service, they had a lot of stores from which to choose. When the polling was
completed, Amazon.com got the nod as the retailer that delivered the highest level of customer service, according to BIGresearch and the National Retail Federation (NRF) Foundation/American
Express Customer Service Survey
.


The online retailing giant led a list of customer-focused companies, including, in order of rank, Nordstrom, L.L. Bean, Overstock.com. Boscov’s, Kohl’s, REI, Lands’ End and Macy’s.


“Consumers are beginning to demand more from retailers and are making conscious decisions about where to shop based on their expectations for good service,” said Tracy Mullin,
president of the NRF, in a press release to announce the results of the study. “Making sure that customers have an exceptional shopping experience is at the top of the list for
retailers this holiday season.”


Not surprisingly, the study found consumers place different expectations for customer service on businesses based on trade channel. For example, consumers look for the highest
level of service from restaurants. Specialty stores and department stores followed on the list.


The results of the study also showed consumers have increasing expectations for service from retailers in various sectors. Shoppers expect more from warehouse clubs, discount
stores and online merchants than they have in the past.


“From flexible return policies to friendly sales associates, the definition of customer service varies from one shopper to another,” said Glenda McNeal, senior vice president,
retail and emerging industries, American Express Establishment Services. “However shoppers choose to measure service, retailers are constantly evaluating the customer experience
to ensure that people are receiving the best service possible.”


Discussion Questions: Are you surprised by any of the companies that were on or omitted from the Top 10 customer service list? Do you see any common
customer service traits shared by the retailers on the NRF/American Express list?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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11 Comments on "Amazon, Nordstrom, L.L. Bean Top Customer Service List"


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William Passodelis
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

Boscov’s has been on this list before in past years and I can ONLY draw the conclusion that they are indeed doing something RIGHT– In this world of homogenization and unbridled sameness I say GREAT. I am SURPRISED that J.C. Penney is NOT there — They have been present before and from shoppers I talk with I find positive responses toward Penny, I AM surprised at Macy’s being present as my interview findings for them are not as positive. Perhaps they are changing for the good? On this list I must agree that as far as brick and mortar — Nordstrom is the final word — on-line is more difficult and requires logistical expertise. Amazon does seem to hold up their end overall as well.

Kenneth A. Grady
Guest
Kenneth A. Grady
15 years 6 months ago

Yesterday, we were talking about self-service and kiosks as the big trend. Today, we are talking about high customer expectations for customer service. The interesting part of the mix is a major Internet focused company (Amazon.com) mixed in with traditional brick-and-mortar companies (Nordstrom, Macy’s). This may suggest that customer service is based more on what happens when the customer interacts with the company than on whether the interaction is in person or electronic. Too many companies have let customer service slip because they claim they can’t afford to spend what it takes to deliver high quality customer service. Given the range of companies in the top 10 and the range of margins they earn, it appears that the myth that customer service is too expensive has met its match.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

There are a few food retailers that could have made the list: Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s.

The theme of the “winners” is that they have systems in place to delight their customers. Customer service is more than “smiles, please, and thank you.” It is about finding out what the customer wants, giving it to her, and getting it right the first time.

Customer service cannot be perceived as an add-on to the organization’s success. It must be perceived as a potential competitive advantage and measured in the same vein as the organization measures sales, profitability, market share and ROI. Obviously, the “winners,” as measured by the real judges on Main Street rather than Wall Street, have invested in systems and people (hiring, training, etc.) such that their customers are “delighted.”

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 6 months ago

Customer service is a matter of expectation as it compares with delivery. A bricks and mortar operation generally (I believe) generates higher expectations than an internet site. It may be that Amazon gets high marks for getting product delivered in a week. A bricks and mortar location would get very low marks for taking a week to deliver the exact same product at the same price. I recently had this experience when purchasing a book. When I went into the store my expectation was that the book would be there. The idea of waiting even 20 minutes for the book was unsatisfactory.

Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

Defining “good customer service” is much akin to the TQM approach to defining “good quality” — does it meet requirements? Crosby (and others) labored mightily in the ’80s to teach us all that Bic and Mont Blanc are both high quality pens. It is just that they have different requirements (specifications, expectations, etc.) There is no surprise in Amazon.com topping this list. It meets consumers requirements for online shopping very well. But I’ll never buy my chinos there….

Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
15 years 6 months ago
I wonder if almost everyone reading this discussion does not agree that “good customer service is very important,” and that “good customer service is rare.” What a disconnect! If it’s so important, why is it so rare? We have covered these two points many times on RetailWire. Our data shows that retail executives as a whole: – Believe that their own organizations have higher customer service levels than their customers say they do. – Believe that their customer service improvement efforts are more effective than they really are. – Believe that customer service does not matter as much as industry watchers say it does. – Do not pay attention or give credibility to industry watchers who say that retail needs to get a lot better at customer service. Will the potential of being on a list like the one being discussed here make retail executives to re-think these positions? Will the publication of this list make them re-think? And the question of the hour, in my book: Are we as retail watchers and experts and… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

Most interesting name on the list: Boscov’s. They’re only in 6 states and don’t spend much money driving national traffic to their web site. Everyone else on the NRF/American Express list is a national brand, either online and/or via bricks and mortar. Either Boscov’s is doing something truly unique or the survey has credibility issues. Or both.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
15 years 6 months ago
As the hospitality industry and innovators like Google have shown us, serve people and you make money. The top 10 brands are proving it as well. I was in a meeting last week with a major CE product manufacturer whose SVP insisted that stores are simply not going to change beyond offering prices, products and messages a bit more relevant to the consumers shopping the stores. Beyond that, they will never evolve. This was a very sexy product and brand that we all know and respect. Their net-net was that they have to spend more money on external media and “brand preference” messages pre-store because they simply can’t do anything else within the walls of the Big Boxes that are so stubborn to evolve. My defense, clearly defended by this piece, is that people have changed and the retail industry has a narrow window to find ways to better serve them. The most basic common sense tells us this yet so many camps aren’t responding! Price and product is simply too easy to find and… Read more »
Dave Allen
Guest
Dave Allen
15 years 6 months ago

There are bits and pieces of truth scattered throughout this discussion, but the point on customer service is communication in my mind. Are the vendors communicating what they offer and what the consumer should expect? Are they listening to the feedback of the consumer through real contact exchanges? Are they delivering on what they offered and responding to the feedback?

If I want something fast, cheap, and know exactly what it is and where it is in the store, I’m in Wal-Mart. If I need interaction to find out what it is you’re offering over another venue, that’s a problem.

Amazon is more than a one week delivery online store. They try to minimize how long it takes to find what you want on their website (minimal clicks). Some retailers online sites are like mazes, you just give up.

I’ve never complained about paying more for something if you make an effort to make it easier to buy, find, understand. That’s the lifeblood of all consultants, don’t you think?

Vahe Katros
Guest
Vahe Katros
15 years 6 months ago

Does the question, “Which retailer delivers the best customer service?” work in this survey?

Answer: Probably not.

It is poor practice to use open-ended survey responses to estimate prevalence. In other words, if a series of retailers was listed and respondents were asked, “Which of these retailers delivers the best customer service?” the results would most likely be quite different.

Cognitively, the response task (for the open-ended item) is: “What company first comes to my mind when I think of companies that provide good customer service?” Survey respondents engage in a process called satisficing [sic]. They do not pick the ‘best’ response; they select the first reasonable response.

Since factors other than ‘best customer service’ will influence an individual’s recall of companies providing good customer service — such as advertising — and since these factors are not necessarily related to customer service, the results are probably biased.

Robert Craycraft
Guest
Robert Craycraft
15 years 6 months ago

I am voting Amazon over Nordstrom because they sell a variety of price points to a variety of consumers and do it extraordinarily well. I feel giving customer service recognition to a luxury retailer is a bit redundant; the cost of that service is quite fairly built into the products.

Secondly, it is interesting that the new inclusion of Macy’s on the list only follows their absorption of Marshall Field & Company, which was #4 last year and the highest-ranked department store. Rather shocking to NOT see Bloomingdale’s included, thus I would describe Macy’s #10 ranking not as a tribute to Macy’s but as a sad comment on their deteriorating the service level of MF from #4 in the country to #10. It will not even be there in 2007.

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