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Amazon retains top rank in Christmas customer service study

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Amazon has taken the two top spots in a wide-ranging annual study of Christmas customer service.

The ForeSee Christmas 2012 Customer Satisfaction Index questions almost 10,000 shoppers to measure their satisfaction with the Christmas shopping experience. This year Amazon.co.uk came out on top, with 86 points (up one point from last year), followed by Amazon.com , with 84 (up two points). The two retain their places from last year. John Lewis was placed third (80). A score of 80, out of a possible 100 points, is considered excellent but was achieved by just three retailers.

Hard on the heels of these three were Play.com (79), Apple (77) and Asda Direct (77), while Ryanair lost three points on last year’s performance to come in at bottom with 61 points. It was seven points behind second-to-last Netflix , which scored 68 points.

ForeSee’s study analyses members of the IMRG Experian Hitwise Hot 100 Retailer list, the UK’s most visited transactional websites. It collects almost 10,000 customer surveys from browsers visiting those websites during the November and December Christmas shopping period, and measures four components of customer satisfaction: site functionality, price, merchandise and content.

Larry Freed, chief executive at ForeSee , said: “Christmas has always been a critical time of the year for retailers but the growth in online shopping this year now means that retail websites are more essential than ever. For these sites to be effective and competitive, a laser-like focus on the customer experience is paramount. UK retailers are clearly providing customers with positive online experiences in general, or customers would not be moving so decisively to online shopping. However, our findings suggest that efforts to improve the customer experience are sluggish and could be significantly improved.”

Average satisfaction, across all the retailers, improved by one point, from 73 to 74, while the most-improved sites were Debenhams (up four points to 76), B&Q’s DIY.com (up four to 71) and Asda Direct (up three points to 77).

The figures are important because, says ForeSee, the most-satisfied UK online shoppers are 62% more likely to buy from that retailer again in the future, and 58% more likely to use it for the same kind of product, while also being more likely to recommend it.

Freed said that while overall customer satisfaction has improved every year, progress has been slow in the last four years. “It’s just not good enough,” he said. “Any retailer registering an average or lower score is risking loyalty, recommendations, sales and market share. By this measure, 29 of these leading UK retailers are underperforming. Whilst falling below average is definitely dangerous, it is hard to imagine that a consistently average performance is safe either, especially in an extremely competitive economy.”

Pureplay and multichannel retailers both saw customer satisfaction improve. For those who only sell online, satisfaction was up slightly 74 from 73 last year. Those who primarily sell through stores saw satisfaction go up by a point to 73, from 72.

As a group, the 14 online mass merchants included in the research scored 77 on aggregate, led by Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, JohnLewis.com and Play.com. Travel and tourism sites scored an average of 71, with Thetrainline.com and Travel Republic leading this group with 74 points each.

“There is a powerful and quantifiable relationship between a positive customer experience online and increased loyalty, sales and recommendations,” said Freed. “Online retailers would do well to sit up and pay attention to this research methodology. By understanding customers’ needs and expectations, they will be able to survive and thrive in 2013 and beyond.”

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