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The Top 5 Best (and Worst) Companies For Customer Service

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customer service By Mitch Lipka, dealnews writer

Customer service, a lost art for many companies, isn't dead. A new survey of the response times for consumer inquiries at the top 100 web retailers shows some consistently speedy results - a welcome contrast to what many have experienced on the other end of the spectrum.

The web evaluation firm STELLAService tested the companies' speed at getting a customer service representative on the phone and getting a real response to emailed questions. When it came to dialing in and getting a person, SierraTradingPost.com, scored top honors at picking up in a speedy six seconds. OfficeDepot.com had the quickest email response average at 48 minutes.

Good performance on the phone did not mean speedy email response or vice versa. Only one company: DisneyStore.com, was in the top 10 in both categories (12 seconds on the phone and a bit under two hours on email).

STELLAService co-founder Jordy Leiser told dealnews it seemed as though companies didn't always have the same oversight of their customer service email teams and telephone crews.

"Sometimes these two things operate independently," he said.

The biggest surprise, Leiser said, was that some of the smaller companies outperformed larger ones with far more resources. The difference, he said, was that those smaller companies clearly decided to focus their more limited resources on customer service.

"A lot of people believe great customer service is the best marketing you can do," Leiser said.

Here are the five companies with the shortest telephone customer service hold times in the STELLAService survey:

  1. SierraTradingPost.com (6 seconds)
  2. YOOX.com (11 seconds)
  3. DisneyStore.com (12 seconds)
  4. UrbanOutfitters.com (17 seconds)
  5. Grainger.com (21 seconds)

Others fast on the phone: Nordstrom.com (21 seconds), Fingerhut.com (23 seconds), MarketAmerica (25 seconds), LLBean.com (25 seconds) and Cabelas.com (27 seconds).

These are the five with the longest hold times:

  1. BarnesandNoble.com (8 minutes 3 seconds)
  2. CSNStores.com (7 minutes 20 seconds)
  3. Macys.com (7 minutes 12 seconds)
  4. Zones.com (6 minute 56 seconds)
  5. GreenMountainCoffee.com (4 minutes 50 seconds)

About one-third of the sites surveyed delivered a person to answer consumer questions in less than a minute. The average time to reach a live person: 1 minute and 41 seconds.

The top five email responses came from:

  1. OfficeDepot.com (47 minutes)
  2. MusiciansFriend.com (59 minutes)
  3. Diapers.com (1 hour, 24 minutes)
  4. DisneyStore.com (1 hour, 48 minutes)
  5. Abercrombie.com (1 hour, 51 minutes)

Others that were quick on email: USAutoParts.net (3 hours, 38 minutes), Gilt.com (4 hours, 43 minutes), PCMall.com (4 hours, 50 minutes), Kohls.com (5 hours, 2 minutes) and Coldwatercreek.com (5 hours, 6 minutes).

The slowest on email:

  1. Crateandbarrel.com (88 hours, 30 minutes)
  2. Fingerhut.com (79 hours, 30 minutes)
  3. Dell.com (65 hours, 11 minutes)
  4. SwissColony.com (52 hours, 29 minutes)
  5. MarketAmerica.com (39 hours, 36 minutes)

The average email response time was about 17 hours, STELLAService found. STELLAService had about 1,200 contacts with companies through email and the phone over a recent four-week period to conduct the survey.


Mitch Lipka is an investigative journalist for consumer issues who formerly wrote for WalletPop.com, Consumer Reports, thePhiladelphia Inquirer and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel,among other places. Follow him on Twitter — @mitchlipka or on Facebook. You can also sign up for an e-mail alert for all dealnews features.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Unless marked as a "Sponsored Deal," the opinions expressed here are those of the author and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the companies mentioned. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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11 comments
lkj123
You can see a company's commitment they have for the consumer through the service they provide to the customer. It goes a long way in my book and people like to stay where they are treated well.

Luke | http://www.missionsupplyonline.com/...ation-mounts
RealDonn
PayPal customer service is not all that slow to answer, just slow - as in stupid.  Their instant online helper-bot will just say it doesn't understand and route you to email, which is never answered.
jimmythethumb
http://Pacificbattery.com never replys to your e-mails. Never answers their phone. And never calls you back.
They also never send you your replacement battery that is still under warranty.
Dan de Grandpre (DealNews)
I've heard that American Express' online store has terrible, terrible customer service. (Not the card, the store.) FWIW.
ada11
USAA, Amazon great customer service. AMEX isn't bad. Verizon is poor. U-Haul is absolutely terrible.
mochabeast
http://Restaurant.com gets my vote for the worst in phone wait times, and not responding to emails...Sears is also awful for phone wait times, and service.  I have given up on both companies because I have had so many bad experiences with each.
jfaker
Although they are a bit better then they used to be ebay is definetly on the top of my list of worst company cuustomer service! I once had to wait three hours to get something resolved!
preachy
BTW, Canon USA has superb customer service.
preachy
E-Machines is owned by Acer, who also owns Gateway.  They have the WORST customer service I've ever experienced.  Not only can you not understand Mahatma as he is attempting to answer your questions (not meant to be a racial slur, but meant to show my pissed offedness at farming CS departments overseas), but their repair policies are horrendous.  I had a Gateway laptop that I bought before they were bought by Acer.  I also bought the extended warantee.  After the merger, Acer did not want to honor the warantee.  I fought long and hard and they finally gave in, but it was a struggle.
m3cb
I agree hold time is only one element. I just had the worst customer service experience of my entire life with e-machines. They actually disconnected me twice, each time i had to start again with a new case number. This is after 6 email exchanges that got me no where. I even offered to leave my phone number in case i got disconnected and was told i could not do that. This is a warranty item i started back in march when my laptop usb port came apart in my mouse. It was just a nightmare to deal with them. On a different note i had a great experience with shore surfer, when my kids board started to come apart they not only sent one replacment no questions asked but they sent an extra even though my other board was fine.
Dan de Grandpre (DealNews)
Good article. However, response time is only one element of customer service for an online store. Other critical ones that STELLAService didn't measure are ease of returns and quickness to ship. (Gilt and Kohl's are very slow to ship, for example. Zappos and Costco, among others, are great for returns.)
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