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UK online retailers need better customer service

UK online retailers need better customer service

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 per cent of retailers failed to reply to customer emails, with only 47 per cent of those who did providing accurate and complete information in their response.

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?

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 per cent of emails were responded to and 31 per cent of phone calls were unanswered.

Just 31 per cent of retailers in this category provided accurate information via email.  The average score across all 62 online retailers was 51 points.

The average scores per retailer type:

Retailer Type 

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








Overall, the 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 per cent did not respond to these enquiries at all. 6 pe cent of phone calls were not answered

2.       Accuracy of information provided – only 47 per cent 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 per cent of phone calls were answered, a mere 2 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent of retailers showed no evidence of having integrated their email and phone channels for example.

Only two per cent provided online chat services and, while 71 per cent offered a frequently answered questions (FAQ) section, just 10 per cent provided a searchable Web self-service function. Only one retailer out of the 62 provided access to all four channels.

Vice President and General Manager, International Operations, Talisma, Jon McNerney said,“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.

He added, “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.”

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