Customer service losers

Even the biggest names in on-line retailing are not faring well in the customer service area. Here is why...
Written by ZDNet Staff, Contributor
Customer service on the Web sucks. And I've got the research to prove it.

I've told you before of the importance of customer service for ecommerce sites. Click for more. Today let's look at why top Web sites are still failing to measure up. Then you can take a turn and nominate the winning and losing shopping sites.

The Gartner Group surveyed customers of the Web's 50 most popular retail sites and found something astonishing: They're all losers.

Not one of them rose above a rating of "average" and most -- 73% -- were even lower at "fair."

Who am I talking about? Oh, just some obscure little sites like:

  • Amazon
  • Gap
  • Nordstrom
  • Toysrus
  • wordsworth.com
  • and 45 others Click for more.
This group is supposed to be top tier, yet their customer service is bottom rung. For instance, of the top 50 online retailers:
  • Only 6% ask if the customer would like to be called
  • Only 24% have instant messaging
  • Only 28% ever acknowledge that they received an email

Want more proof? Research firm cPulse found that almost one-quarter of online retail customers were extremely dissatisfied with their shopping experience.

Gartner analyst Carol Ferrara says even big etailers make common mistakes. I've listed the five I think are the worst. They fall under the heading "Making the Customer Work to Get Service."

  • Hiding the link or tab to customer service
  • Requiring a customer to download software to access customer service
  • Requiring a password to get customer service
  • Lack of coordination between the online and offline storefronts, including knowledge of what was available
  • Lack of good customer service by phone
If you want to avoid the worst sites, visit e-BuyersGuide.com for consumer ratings of online retailers.

It's too bad that customer service, which is such an essential part of a successful online business, continues to be so crappy. Online buying will continue to grow, but at a much slower pace than it would if etailers were smart enough to take care of their customers.

Do you have a story about online customer service? Hit the Talkback button and tell me whether it was a horror or a dream come true. Or go to my Berst Alert Forum, where a discussion is already underway.

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