FM Outsource’s Mystery Shopper reveals the best brands for customer service

Customer service has come a long way from traditional call centres. Today, consumers want to contact brands through a variety of channels. But are companies truly maximising the technology available to them in order to deliver an outstanding customer experience?

At FM Outsource, we conducted an in-depth mystery shopping exercise to identify the exciting, missed opportunities brands should be tapping into if they want to take their customer service to another level. We surveyed a number of top brands, across a variety of sectors, to gauge the temperature of customer service as it exists today.

And the results are thoroughly intriguing.


Our goal: to engage and review the customer services provided by top brands across a number of sectors.
Our target categories: established e-tailers, brick and mortar retailers and major supermarkets.
Our criteria: customer service channels available, response times and rates of first contact resolution.

From our research, we hoped to highlight the ‘heroes’ ofcustomer service – brands that are doing customer service the right way – and to also identify and explore the areas still open to improvement.

4 out of 5
brick & mortar brands provide a CS email address

The average telephone response time for supermarkets was
4.5 mins

of e-tailers had webchat availability

Less than
of brands offer SMS/Whatsapp

Channel mix

Most brands are now seeing the benefits of diversifying their customer service channels. However, there’s still a bias towards certain channels, depending on the category of the company.

E-tailers, for example, outshine the competition in digital customer service – of those we investigated, 100% use webchat and have customer service coverage on social media platforms.

When it comes to telephone and email, traditional brick and mortar retailers lead the way, with 60% offering both of these channels. Supermarkets, perhaps owing to the cost or lack of infrastructure, lag behind in email customer service – less than 43% offered this channel.

Regarding e-tailers, there are a number of possible reasons why so few of them provide phone or email customer service: high costs associated with hiring internal teams, low capacity to handle the volume of incoming queries and a general tendency towards online options, given that they are perceived as digital brands.

Untapped potential

With SMS and WhatsApp, there’s a huge opportunity to explore and develop for brands wanting to go the extra mile with their customer service. They’re not only quick and convenient for customers (most people have their mobile phones close to hand) but also makes them feel more secure as they have a copy of the conversation history too.

However, of all the brands we researched, only two currently offer SMS or WhatsApp customer service: Tesco and Pretty Little Thing.

Adding this channel to a brand’s customer service offering could be the key to them standing out from the competition and winning over more customers.

Response rate and time

On average, all three categories delivered similar response times across all their available channels: 11 minutes (supermarkets), 11.5 minutes (brick and mortar) and 12 minutes (e-tailers).

However, some brands stood out in particular. Currys performed extremely well across their customer service channels with an average response time of less than four minutes.

On the other end of the spectrum, IKEA didn’t respond at all on three out of their four customer service channels, despite our multiple attempts to reach them.

Untapped potential

Almost across the board, brands performed poorly in social media response times. An overwhelming 76% of responses were either sent over an hour later or not at all.

When so many shoppers these days use social media as a tool for product discovery and purchasing, the potential to secure greater customer loyalty is significant. So, it’s surprising to see that brands aren’t paying more attention to these channels.

First contact resolution

Only six out of the 17 brands we investigated had a first contact resolution (FCR) rate of more than 50%.

When comparing the three categories as a whole, there were no major differences; e-tailers took a minor lead with an average FCR rate of nearly 49%, closely followed by supermarkets at 45% and brick and mortar retailers at 38%.

That said, Missguided was the one exceptional performer with a notable FCR rate of 83%. They only offer three customer service channels – webchat, Twitter and Facebook – but they’ve worked this to their advantage by ensuring the resources they do have are effectively applied.

Again, IKEA came in at the other end of the range with a low FCR rate of just 15%.

Untapped potential

Being able to resolve a customer’s query when they first get in contact is a gamechanger – the less friction and frustration shoppers have to experience when dealing with customer service, the more likely they are to remain loyal to and advocate that brand.

Brands should focus on boosting their FCR rates if they want to beat the competition and win the hearts of their target customers. Having trained operatives that are equipped with the right knowledge and experience will help improve FCR rates, as they’re more likely to solve problems immediately.

Take a deep dive into the data

Interested in reading through our findings in more detail? Download the complete Mystery Shopper Research Deck to see all the data compiled in one handy document.

To get the deck, please fill in the form across and then hit download!

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