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Delivering cross-channel customer experiences (IRUK 2016)

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John Lewis, The Perfume Shop and TK Maxx shine in this Dimension:

In the Customer Performance Dimension, we aimed to find out which Top500 retailers provided shoppers with the best experience across channels, both as a website user and through customer service. We’re looking at retailers as they lean in and actively engage with customers, and we’re finding those at the top are those that are available, responsive and effective. Retailers lead this Dimension by evolving continuously to meet the ever-more rigorous demands of consumers.

With a timely and helpful approach to customer service, John Lewis tops The Customer Performance Dimension. The department store retailer is not the quickest to answer queries, but it does so effectively. It answered a Facebook query in 2h 47m when InternetRetailing researchers put it to the test, and an email question in 2h 2m. But it also gave helpful and relevant answers to those questions, with link to customer service clearly visible from the home page, and a live chat clearly visible in the customer service section of the website. A customer query asked via a phone call was resolved in 4m 7s, which, although two minutes slower than the average time, scored the maximum for effectiveness and service levels.

“There’s a holistic approach to customer service at John Lewis that puts it well ahead of its rivals,” says InternetRetailing researcher Polina Modenova. “Not only does it answer the questions we asked, but it does so in a timely manner.” John Lewis ranked highly in tests measuring the speed of desktop page load.

Second-ranked The Perfume Shop won its place for fast and effective customer service that answered a Facebook query in 1h 24m, and answered a phone query in 57s, gaining the maximum score for its service and the resolution that it provided in these areas. On email, its response time was slower – at 20h 32m – but customer query resolution scored full marks and customer service was just short of full marks.

TK Maxx , third-placed in this Dimension, won its place for reliably swift customer service that was outstanding in some areas.

It answered a customer question on Facebook in 35m, the quickest response rate recorded among the Top5 retailers, and responded to an email query in under 51m. Overall, it was the fastest of the Elite retailers to answer customer queries via both email and Facebook.

French Connection , answering emails in 2h 59s, and a Facebook question in 56m with a market-leading level of service and query resolution, was placed fourth, and WHSmith, answering a customer query in 1h 6m, was in fifth place.

Change at the top

This is a Top5 that has changed somewhat since IRUK Top500 2015 research. In the last year researchers have developed and refined their metrics, assessing areas from page load speed and compliance to Google PageSpeed and Yahoo YSlow scores, right through to the speed and effectiveness with which retailers answer email, Facebook and phone queries, and factoring in how many followers each retailer had on Twitter. In the round, researchers aimed to find out which Top500 retailers provided customers with the best experience, across channels, both as a website user and through customer service. While research metrics have changed, it’s also undoubtedly the case that the top retailers are those that continue to improve in customer service, evolving continuously to meet the ever-more rigorous demands of the consumer.

Assessing the field

The Elite retailers stand out by comparison with relatively unimpressive averages elsewhere. TK Maxx’s 35m response time for a Facebook query stands out starkly against an average of 53 hours – and it’s worth noting that while 16% of the Top500 also answered a Facebook query in 35 minutes or less and 22% within an hour, 55% did not respond to a Facebook query at all. It’s worth mentioning that while

TK Maxx’s best email response time of 51m compares well to the average of 27 hours, while The Perfume Shop’s ability to pick up the phone and resolve an issue in 57s is less than half the time of the average 2m 6s. Notably, 8% of phone calls to advertised customer service numbers went unanswered, while 1% reached an automated service.

Smaller traders can and do stand out in some aspects. GetTheLabel was the fastest to resolve a customer query – in 18 seconds – followed by LK Bennett in 19 seconds.

“Average email and Facebook response times reveal a disconnect in customer service,” says Modenova. “It’s being dealt with on a channel basis rather than with a single view of the customer. That’s important because from the customer’s perspective, there’s not a great deal of difference between different ways of contacting the same retailer.”

It’s worth mentioning here that last year the research measured Twitter response times, and this year addressed retailers’ efficiency on Facebook. Last year, Twitter responses were almost twice as fast as those via email, but this year Facebook lags behind email. Next year that metric may again be adjusted. The study did count Twitter follower numbers, finding the average number of followers came in at approximately 17,000. Retailers with large audiences on Twitter included John Lewis and House of Fraser.

In page load measures, it’s notable that while the fastest full page on desktop came in at 0.8s – for bouxavenue.com – the average full page load time has increased by 18% to 4.1s across the Top500 since last year, when this metric came in at 3.5s. Perhaps that’s down to the 115 average elements now seen on each page. The initial html, however, loaded within an average of 0.3s, while the average page size stood at 2.7MB.

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