U.K. Online Retailers Selling Shoppers Short on Service


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• Talisma audit highlights major disparities in level of customer service
• Health and Beauty retailers offer best overall experience
• Clothing and Accessories retailers failing to reach basic level of customer service

London, UK – 20th June 2007 – An independent study has revealed that UK online retailers have a long way to go to improve their customer service if they are to reap the rewards of the burgeoning ecommerce market, set to reach £60 billion in 2012*. In a mystery shopper exercise, as many as 45% of retailers failed to reply to customer emails, with only 47% of those who did providing accurate and complete information in their response. The findings of the audit are highlighted in a report published today by customer service specialist Talisma, available to download at www.talisma.com/UKRetailAudit.

Talisma contacted 62 leading UK online retailers to ask the following questions: what are your shipment charges? and what credit / debit cards can I use to make a payment? The experience was assessed based on a range of customer service criteria, and each retailer awarded a score out of 100.

Health and Beauty retailers provided the best customer experience, with an average score of 65. All emails and phone calls were answered promptly, and accurate information given in all cases. The UK’s supermarket chains and toy retailers also fared better than average, achieving 55 and 56 points respectively.

In contrast, Clothing and Accessories retailers provided a pitiful level of service, with an average score of 45. Only 23% of emails were responded to and 31% of phone calls were unanswered. Shockingly, just 31% of retailers in this category provided accurate information via email. The average score across all 62 online retailers was 51 points. The following league table outlines the average scores per retailer type:

Retailer Type Average score
Health and beauty 65
Toys and children 56
Supermarkets 55
Electricals 55
Home furnishings and DIY 53
Books, CDs, DVDs and games 52
Department/ general stores 51.5
Jewelers 50
Clothing and accessories 45

Overall, the Talisma audit revealed that online retailers are failing in three key areas:

1. Speed of response – all 62 retailers encouraged internet users to contact them via email, but 45% did not respond to these enquiries at all. 6% of phone calls were not answered

2. Accuracy of information provided – only 47% of the emails that were answered actually provided useful information, with the majority of retailers giving either inaccurate or incomplete responses

3. Personalisation of customer service – while 94% of phone calls were answered, a mere 2% were handled with any form of personalisation, such as the agent introducing themselves or addressing the customer by their name. Email fared only slightly better, with 37% of responses personalised

In addition, it was apparent that many online retailers do not offer customers a choice of communication channel or blend these internally. A massive 87% of retailers showed no evidence of having integrated their email and phone channels for example. Only 2% provided online chat services and, while 71% offered a frequently answered questions (FAQ) section, just 10% provided a searchable Web self-service function. Only one retailer out of the 62 provided access to all four channels.

“The online retail market is growing rapidly but its highly competitive nature means that customer satisfaction and loyalty will be key for retailers to generate repeat business and growth from the 25 million UK people that now shop online. Dissatisfied customers not only defect, but on average tell ten people about their bad experience,” said Jon McNerney Vice President and General Manager, International Operations, Talisma.

“Today’s increasingly sophisticated, internet-savvy shoppers expect speed and efficiency. Therefore, the most successful online retailers will be the ones that respond to enquiries immediately with accurate information, treat every potential customer as an individual and interact with them through the channel of their choice,” added McNerney.

To download a copy of the report and obtain a list of the online retailers that were surveyed please visit: www.talisma.com/UKRetailAudit .

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