How Fast does your Retail Biz Answer the Phone? See How it Measures Up

Ever heard your customers utter the phrase, “I just want to talk to a real person!?”

If it’s a familiar one for you, you might want to hear about a new survey whose results have just been released and show which companies get customers talking to live people the fastest. Unsurprisingly, those are the companies getting recommended and getting the most repeat business.

Ifbyphone, a Chicago-based voice marketing automation platform that manages, measures and automates sales and service calls, released the results of its Responsiveness Index, which ranked STORES Magazine‘s 2011 top 100 retailer brands by how quickly customers could connect for live conversation. The results put Radio Shack and 7-Eleven at the top for fastest local store response times, while the home furnishing and consumer electronics sectors showed some real room for improvement.

The good news is that a majority of local stores surveyed (81% of them) answered in less than 60 seconds. But one in five stores took longer than a minute to answer. These results can be further illuminated when compared to the results of a previous study conducted by the same company back in May, which found that 59% of customers were more likely to buy and 73% were more likely to recommend a brand when a call was answered in less than one minute. While the majority of the brands surveyed in the recent Responsiveness Index were under that one minute mark, 14 brands were outside it.

The study’s response times and rankings were measured by three independent secret shoppers who collected the amount of time it took for each brand to start a live conversation at both local and corporate locations.

The index found that the average time to reach a real person at all 100 brands with local store phone numbers was just under 36 seconds, though the majority (55%) answered in less than 20 seconds. The average was pulled down by the 14 brands that took more than a minute to answer. But as good as the results were at the local store level, the corporate numbers were quite a different story.

The index’s secret shoppers also called the most prominently displayed 800-number listed on each brand’s website to follow whichever path they felt was the fastest, most natural way to start a live conversation. It took between one and eight minutes to reach a real person in the bottom two-thirds and customers waited an average of two minutes and 15 seconds to hold a live conversation.

What’s most important here is what this does to our overall customer satisfaction, which of course directly impacts conversion rates. If customers feel they’re being taken care of when they need something, they’re surely going to buy more and more often.

Do you know how long it takes to reach a live person at your company’s corporate number?