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Putting the consumer first

How we assessed retailers on service and site experience

SHOPPERS HAVE a high-quality experience when they visit ecommerce websites operated by retail brands that lead in The Customer Performance Dimension. The InternetRetailing analysis rewards Top500 websites that deliver a fast-loading website while also offering outstanding customer service via a range of channels. Leading websites enable customers to read ratings and reviews on the site as well as via the mobile app. They also make it easy for customers to find their way around sites, thanks to effective navigation strategies. Researchers also took into account how easy it is for a customer to return an item once bought, as well as how long it takes for the item to be refunded. As a result of research carried out with InternetRetailing Knowledge Partner Ghostery, retailers benefit if a website has fewer tag requests, as measured through total tag load and unique tag loads. Total page loads give an insight into how long visitors are staying on the site.

What the Top500 do

The Top500 UK retailers offered customer support or information through an average of five (4.8) channels. Here, Marks & Spencer stood out with a market-leading eight channels. When researchers contacted Top500 retailers with an email query, they received a response in a median time of 12h, while a small number of slow-to-respond retailers took the average time to just under 24h (23.5h). But the fastest retailers were ahead of those figures: among the top retailers for the Dimension, Topps Tiles responded to an email in 3m and House of Fraser in 24m.

Researchers rated the Top500’s responses on average at three out of four for effectiveness in resolving the query, and rated the quality of service at two out of a possible four.

When researchers submitted a customer query over Facebook, they found a faster median response time, at just under half an hour. But the average response time was much slower, at almost 53h – just over two days. The fastest were very speedy indeed: Waitrose’s average response time was 12s, while Topps Tiles’ average was 1.5m. Researchers rated the average response of a Top500 company with three (3.4) out of a possible four for how well the issue was resolved, and with an average of three (2.7) out of four for the quality of service.

The average Top500 retail brand had 60,000 Twitter followers, although the median following came in at 8,340. The leading Top25 retailer in this Dimension was Amazon with, at the time of the research, more than 671,000 followers.

In total, 31% of the Top500 offered product ratings, while 34% offered product reviews.

Mobile was an important focus for the analysis, which found that 12% of the Top500 apps offered written product reviews. Turning to website performance, mobile websites started to launch in an average of 0.12s and a median time of 0.07s.

By 0.9s, the average Top500 mobile website was visually complete, while the median site took 1s.

The final metrics considered were around returns. In total, 52% of the 480 retailers for whom the metric was relevant promised to refund items in full, while 20% also refunded the cost of returning the item. Top500 retailers gave customers an average of 28 days to return unwanted items and took a median time of 11 days to process the refund.

The leading retailers

The leading retailers in The Customer Performance Dimension are those that perform well across metrics, rather than standing out in a single area. They included Laura Ashley , John Lewis , Boots , House of Fraser and Waitrose . Laura Ashley took an average of 154m to respond to a Facebook query and dealt with phone enquiries on average in less than 2m (112s). It scored high marks for the quality and effectiveness of its customer service across all channels. Its mobile website also loaded extremely quickly.

John Lewis stood out for its customer service, scoring maximum points on its service and issue resolution via email, Facebook and phone. It responded to emails in an average of 32m and to Facebook queries in 37m, and supported four engagement channels. It scored well for fast visual rendering of its mobile website and had more than 116,000 Twitter followers.

Boots supported seven customer service and information channels. It scored the maximum for effectiveness in its response to email queries, answered on average in 96m, and to Facebook enquiries, answered in 4h 18m. It also ranked highly for its response to customer phone calls.

Laura Ashley was among the retailers that performed well above its weight as measured in the Top500 Footprint. Others that punched above their weight in this Dimension included House of Fraser, which has seven customer engagement and information channels, answered emails in an average of 24m, Facebook enquiries in 13s, and dealt with phone calls in 2.7m, all with high scores for service and efficiency.

Joules responded to Facebook queries in an average of 16m and dealt with phone calls in 108s. It rated highly for quality of information and customer service. Nisbets, with a mobile website that loaded in less than a minute, and Chain Reaction Cycles, with an easy-to-navigate website, also punched well above their weight.

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