While a study of 46 leading e-commerce sites found overall performance to be satisfactory, with average scores ranging from 76% to 90%, many etailers still need to improve on customer service.

The eRetail Benchmark Study from eDigital Research used mystery shoppers to assess the usability of leading online retail sites in the UK. Customer contact by email and phone are two areas where some retailers performed poorly.

The study looked at various aspects of website usability from the mystery shopper’s perspective, and scores for each category rarely dipped much below 70%, expect for customer service.

Telephone customer service

Praise is due to Waitrose and House of Fraser, who scored 94.7% and 94% respectively. However, Game performed poorly with a score of just 50%, while River Island and ASOS didn’t score at all, since they don’t offer customers the option of contacting them by telephone.

Email contact

Email offers an opportunity for providing convenient customer service for customers who would rather not use the phone, but several online retailers were found wanting in this area.

While Next (92.3%) and House of Fraser (91.3%) topped the survey, 13 of the retailers scored less than 50%. Play.com and BHS don’t even provide email contact options, while ASDA, Carphone Warehouse and OneStopPhoneShop are joint bottom on 33.3%.

In the case of Carphone Warehouse, an email option can be found, but responses are only promised within four working days, which would be too slow for many customers.

Also, it’s necessary to fill in a form with name and address details before you are allowed to submit the form: 

At least you can actually find the email contact option on Carphone Warehouse, with OneStopPhoneShop, the contact page invites customers to email, but there is no link or email address provided, which makes it pretty useless.

On the ASDA site, there must be an email address somewhere since the study awarded the site a mark for this, but good luck to anyone trying to find it. I gave up after a few attempts. It really shouldn’t have to be that difficult.

Top performing websites

John Lewis, M&S and Next all scored over 90% overall in the survey, with Amazon, House of Fraser and New Look close behind. Occupying the bottom three places were e2save, very.co.uk, and Dixons.

Best shopping basket

New Look was praised for its ‘best in class shopping basket’ and its worth looking at as a best practice example:

The essentials for shopping baskets are all there, and What New Look does well to provide all of the information that customers need to know before entering the checkout process.

Reassurances about site security and returns are shown clearly, as well as the delivery charges and accepted payment methods, while the contents of the basket can easily be edited. A good example of how this should be done.