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Survey Says: Customer Service a Costly Afterthought

Posted on 3.21.2010

Online consumers are willing to pay nearly 11 percent more for e-commerce items if it means the highest level of customer service is included in the process, according to an Ovum survey commissioned by StellaService. In monetary terms, that amounts to an additional $17.3 billion that consumers are willing to pay for exceptional online customer service in 2010.

The study concluded that consumers put a 10.7-percent premium on the quality of customer service they receive when shopping online and determined that few of today’s largest e-tailers meet that standard. Exceptional customer service was defined as excelling in the three following areas:

•    Online tools and interfaces
•    Shipping delivery and return policies
•    Human support

In conjunction with the survey, online customer-service evaluator StellaService ranked the 150 largest e-commerce sites, with, and taking the top three spots.,,,,, and rounded out the top 10.

While many sites still expect consumers to exert the lion's share of effort when returning or exchanging items purchased online, Zappos’ customer-friendly process helped it in the rankings, said StellaService CEO Jordy Leiser. To test the human-support element, the survey-takers called each site more than 12 times to inquire about products and policies and to state concerns, and evaluated the responses.

“Generally speaking, most firms don’t take an obsessive customer-service approach,” said Leiser.

Based on the survey results, and the dollar amount, smart businesses will consider a new approach.

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