Retail TouchPoints: Mystery Shopper Study Shows E-tailers Sacrifice Service For Cost Containment, Efficiencies
By Debbie Hauss
Through a special arrangement,
presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from
the Retail TouchPoints website.
Although online sales continued to outpace
brick-and-mortar sales in 2009, online retailers still felt the pinch of
the recent recession during the most recent holiday season. In response,
a number of online retailers chose cost containment over improvements in
customer service in Q4 2009, according to the e-tailing group’s 12th
Annual Mystery Shopping Study.
Merchants have made trade-offs on communication
effectiveness and information accessibility to cut costs, the study reports.
Year-over-year it took merchants longer to respond to email communication
(20.69 minutes in Q4 ‘09 vs. 20.15 in Q4 ’08). Email responses were less
likely to offer a personalized salutation (75 percent vs. 82 percent) and
fewer gave correct answers (72 percent vs. 77 percent).
Additionally, call center performance was
less effective in Q4 2009, with longer wait times for customer calls and
some return policies have become more restrictive.
At a time when consumers are demanding more
and better information on a timely basis, loyalty and brand perception
will likely take a hit if retailers continue down the path of cutting costs
at the expense of customer service. "I think consumers will get frustrated
when they don’t get the answers they need," says Lauren Freedman, founder
and president of the e-tailing group. The problem is not automation per
se, but the fact that the retailers are not providing timely responses
and providing correct answers to consumers’ questions, she explains.
Merchants did make some positive progress
during Q4 2009, by improving the speed of deliveries and investing in technologies
that are providing better information during the checkout experience.
For consumers who chose to purchase their
gifts at the last minute in ’09, they were able to receive their packages
quicker (4.05 days in ’09 vs. 4.76 in ’08). Merchants also made it easier
for consumers to check out and reorder. In 2009, 89 percent offered pre-populated
customer information in the shopping cart, 50 percent offered single cart
checkout from multiple merchants under one umbrella brand, and 10 percent
offered the ability to reorder from order history.
More and more retailers are using some form
of social media and/or customer feedback mechanism to interact with customers.
In 2009, 22 percent of merchants surveyed offered post-order targeted email
to review/rate a purchase and 26 percent provide post-order targeted email
The top performers were
chosen as other sites were eliminated for not possessing "must have" criteria
in the following order of importance.
- Keyword search
- Four or fewer days to receive
- Adequately and correctly
answer email question within 24 hours; providing a specific (rather than
- On-site home page accessibility
of toll-free phone number 2.0 or higher on a scale of 3.0
- CSR product knowledge when
calling toll-free number 2.0 or higher on a scale of 3.0
- Five or fewer clicks to
- Email shipping confirmation
- Email order confirmation
sent with order number and customer service information included
- Real-time inventory in shopping
cart or on product page
Questions: Where do e-commerce sites need to continue to invest to
improve the shopping experience? On the other hand, in what areas can
they look to cut expenses?
- Mystery Shopper Study
Shows E-tailers Sacrifice Service For Cost Containment, Efficiencies
– Retail TouchPoints