eCommerce Customer Service – Phone Calls or Emails or Best of Both Worlds

According to a recent eCommerce survey performed by StellaService, some of the top 100 e-retailers have serious customer service issues. On average, the time spent answering an email is 17 hours. On the phones, those same companies are averaging one minute and 41 seconds putting their customers on hold. What makes the latter worse is the best company in that regard,, has an average of six seconds. Who’s putting their customers on hold for minutes at a time to raise the average so much?

Looking at the figures, however, there’s one major noticeable factor. In the top ten in each category, only one company,, shows up for both email and phone speed. What does this mean?

It appears some companies really pride themselves on having the fastest email response or phone service. But when you focus on one thing, you may lose out on the other. Unless you’re Disney, of course.

Middle Ground

The argument now, of course, if it’s really important to be the absolute fastest in the land. When it comes to email, is a full hour behind the fastest company, Office Depot, at one hour and 47 minutes (and 40 seconds). For phone calls, they’re literally double the fastest time at 12 whole seconds (hey, when you’re on hold, it’s an eternity).

However, whichever route their customers go, they can expect top rated service. Office Depot may have the fastest email time, but they’re off the chart with their phone calling. may have a lightning fast hold time on the phone, but where are they for email response time? Not in the top ten, that’s for certain.

So, again, the question is not should you try to set the land speed record for fastest email. The real question is how to find a delicate middle ground where all your service is at its optimum. Why would a customer care you have great phone service when you can’t seem to get your product out on time or answer simple questions?


One way to test your company’s competence in various arenas is to perform honest analysis. Set up a study much like StellaService’s and get an idea of what your average customer can expect. This works for every aspect of your business, too; from ordering, to shipping, to customer service, even to polite follow-ups.

Now assemble the data and take a cold, hard look at what it tells you. Are you really knocking it out of the park when it comes to shipping? That’s great, you should celebrate that – but take a look at your payment system. It takes customers an average of twenty minutes to fill out your form! Clearly, there needs to be some adjusting, even at the cost of a little bit of that shipping cred.

The key here is to get everything up to optimal speed – not up to sonic boom inducing speed. If one part of your business, like emails to customers, is beyond superb, then that’s one thing. But if everything with your store is at least above and beyond, then your customers will never have anything to complain about.