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Survey Totes Up Value of Excellent Online Customer Service

By Erika Morphy
Mar 19, 2010 5:00 AM PT

Excellent online customer service may be worth US$17.3 billion in 2010, according to a new Ovum survey commissioned by StellaService.

Survey Totes Up Value of Excellent Online Customer Service

That's the round figure for the 10.7 percent premium the report suggests customers are willing to pay for good customer service.

The survey was conducted across multiple categories -- financial services, healthcare, utilities and retail -- including both online and brick-and-mortar stores. The total value of great customer service across all categories, both online and off, was found to be $268 billion per year, or a 9.7 percent premium.

That online consumers are willing to pay an additional percentage isn't surprising, Jordy Leiser, cofounder and CEO of StellaService, told CRM Buyer.

The total value of excellent customer service for e-tailers is what he found compelling. "It was quite a shock for us, actually, especially considering that so few companies meet the criteria for offering this level of service."

Defining 'Great' Customer Service

For purposes of the survey, exceptional service consists of of three components, Leiser explained. "One is that it has all of the necessary online tools and interfaces -- which includes comprehensive content. The second is the shipping delivery and return polices. Are consumers able to easily execute the returns process?"

There is a world of difference among e-tailers in this category, he added, with pluses like the prepaid envelope Zappos sends to consumers, as well as negatives such as the many hoops that some e-commerce sites still make consumers jump through to return a product.

The third element is human support, Leiser said. To test this, the survey called each retailer more than 12 times to ask questions about products, its business operations, personal concerns, etc.

Top Retailers

In conjunction with the survey, StellaService compiled a lists of customer rankings for the largest 150 e-commerce sites. Zappos.com, Diapers.com and BlueNile.com were in the top three slots, in that order. They were followed by Amazon.com, Staples.com, Crutchfield.com, LLBean.com, BestBuy.com, Apple.com, Sears.com and REI.com.

Rounding out the top 15 are Ebags.com, Onlineshoes.com, Orvis.com and Netflix.com.

"As you can see, only a few companies really do this well," Leiser said. "Generally speaking, most firms tend to fall in the middle-of -the-pack range and don't take an obsessive customer service approach."

That is unfortunate, he added, because there is clearly a lot of money and value being left out of the total.

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