Black Friday Shopping Online? Data Says These 10 Sites Will Make It Painless
Clare O’Connor, Forbes Staff
11/21/2013 @ 11:14AM
BlackFriday hysteria sets in outside a Target.
For every intrepid bargain hunter willing to sleep in a frosty tent outside a Best Buy for a slightly cheaper TV, there’s a horrified homebody who’d rather wait out Black Friday altogether — or maybe spend it online.
If your Thanksgiving weekend plans involve your couch, laptop and credit card, you’ll want to pay heed to the latest online customer care rankings from StellaService. The startup, profiled by Forbes in September, tracks hundreds of data points in thousands of monthly transactions to act as a Nielsen or J.D. Power & Associates for internet retail.
Mystery shoppers scattered nationwide order and return $10 shirts, $1,000 bicycle parts and every conceivable product in between, stress-testing customer service at every step.
Once a month, StellaService releases a report tracking e-commerce performance across four service areas — phone, email, shipping and returns — in 10 retail categories, from department stores to office supplies. In October’s report, released on Wednesday and available in full here, the following websites came out on top overall, beating out the big boys like Amazon.com and Walmart:
This is Ralph Lauren’s first time at number one, besting J. Crew, a perennial customer service achiever and the winner three months running.
StellaService noted that RalphLauren.com was particularly strong in phone support: the average customer waited less than 30 seconds to get a human voice on the phone. Even more impressively, 100% of these mystery shoppers’ concerns were resolved during that phone call. (LLBean.com was actually faster, answering customer calls in a speedy 12 seconds on average, but failed to make the top five for shipping or returns.)
Other worthwhile tidbits to take into account as the biggest online shopping weekend of the year approaches? While billionaire Lululemon founder Chip Wilson’s had some trouble with his manners of late, his employees are far more friendly. The cult yoga retailer’s phone support topped the sportswear category in October, with competitor UnderArmour at number two.
In the ever-popular holiday retail category of electronics, HP’s website dropped from the top for the first time in 2013 due to a slower than normal response time to emails.
TigerDirect.com and Apple killed the competition in shipping, although the iPad purveyor missed the delivery date on one order, keeping them out of the top spot.
For more on the data behind online customer service, read Forbes’ profile of StellaService and its young founders here.