From Forbes on March 29, 2016:

It’s an Amazon, Amazon, Amazon, Amazon world, but one retailer continues to top the online giant when it comes to shopper experience.

For the second year in a row, outdoor outfitter L.L.Bean tops the list of Prosper Insights & Analytics’ Customer Service Champions over second place Amazon.com. Customer Service Champions were developed from a write-in vote from more than 6,000 U.S. consumers (18+) in September 2015 and weighted by each retailers’ relative size in annual revenues as well as its fan base, as defined by a retailer’s promoters (per the Net Promoter Score.*) See last year’s winners here and 2013’s top picks here. Following L.L.Bean and Amazon (in rank order) are: Nordstrom, Kohl’s, Lands’ End, REI, Zappos.com, JC Penney, QVC, and Macy’s.

cs0316overall

With two non-traditional retailers consistently topping Prosper’s list of Champions, it’s certainly evident that the conventional idea of great customer service – assistance with a smile – has evolved as shopping habits have become increasingly digital, limiting retailers’ opportunities for one-on-one contact with their customers. While human interaction, whether it be in person, over the phone, or in a live chat situation, continues to be important to consumers, the idea of customer service excellence has progressed to include shopper favorites such as free shipping, liberal return policies, aggressive promotions, and guaranteed products under its umbrella, creating a retail experience that delights shoppers consistently across all channels, increasing the chances for return visits. Read below as shoppers articulate why their favorite retailers are worthy of the Customer Service Champion mantle.

1. L.L.Bean: In a retailing world driven by deep discounting, L.L.Bean seems to swim against the current, luring shoppers with products “Guaranteed to Last™.” Free shipping on all orders probably doesn’t hurt, either.

cs0316llbean1

2. Amazon.com: One of the youngest retailers in this list, Amazon has redefined how consumers approach shopping, creating a secure online experience which its customers seem to love, and besting traditional retailers at their own game. The perks of Prime membership, free shipping, competitive pricing, and proactive, common sense responses to issues make this online giant a perennial Champion.

cs0316amzn

3. Nordstrom: Is any explanation necessary here? Nordstrom’s customer service is literally textbook; the department store has largely avoided the vicious cycle of promotional discounting by going above and beyond for its customers, creating an experience that attracts shoppers from multiple generations.

cs0316nord

4. Kohl’s: The aforementioned promotions run rampant at Kohl’s, providing a completely different experience for customers watching tighter budgets. Kohl’s shoppers cite friendly associates willing to help them score the best deals and a liberal return policy, perhaps necessary for those regretful purchases made during a discount feeding frenzy.

cs0316kss

5. Lands’ End: While Lands’ End has recently made efforts to update its offerings to attract a wider range of audiences, there’s one item on which shoppers agree: customer service needs no facelift. The company’s “Guaranteed. Period®” guideline goes back more than half a century, engendering loyalty from its customers – an attribute which is hard to find in today’s competitive selling environment.

cs0316le

6. REI: Preparing for an outdoor adventure can be a daunting task, which is why shoppers unequivocally defer to Recreational Equipment, Inc.’s knowledgeable staff of like-minded enthusiasts. The consumer co-op provides shoppers with a “100% satisfaction guaranteed” return policy and touts its conservation efforts, that cherry on top for cause-conscious shoppers.

cs0316rei

7. Zappos.com: Free shipping? Check. Free returns? Check. Shoes? Check. What’s not to love about Zappos? With its signature quirky approach to providing shoppers with a WOW experience from their computers and mobile devices, Zappos even offers to school others on the secrets of its success.

cs0316zap

8. JC Penney: As the department store darling of the recent holiday season, it seems that JC Penney has officially made amends with shoppers after its disastrous “Fair & Square” era. Customers laud JC Penney for its helpful associates, ease of catalog shopping (and in-store pick-up), and, of course, promotions.

cs0316jcp

9. QVC: In a world where TV viewers are easily diverted by DVRs, on-demand programming, and those smart gadgets at our fingertips, it takes skill just to get the attention of consumers, not to mention elicit a purchase from them. QVC’s home shoppers praise the retailer for its human-to-human phone skills, reasonable return policy, and payment plans available for budget-oriented customers.

cs0316qvc

10. Macy’s: Macy’s is currently facing is fair share of difficulties, and while the storied department store did crack the top 10 this year (just ahead of #11 Sears, laden with its own troubles), it’s worth noting that its most formidable competitors – Nordstrom, Kohl’s, and JC Penney – scored higher rankings. Macy’s clearly has some work ahead of itself, but it appears that there are still shoppers who believe in the retailer’s “magic.”

cs0316macy

Pam Goodfellow is Principal Analyst/Consumer Insights Director for Prosper Insights & Analytics™ and editor of the monthly Consumer Snapshot.

*Net Promoter, NPS and Net Promoter Score are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, and Fred Reichheld.