The UK’s most popular online retailers have been slammed for their approach to customer service, with B&Q, HMV and even top-performing Amazon criticised by research firm Marketing Assistance.

Researchers bought a product from the top 28 UK sites and rated their performance based on 36 criteria, including delivery, returns procedures and communications with customer service staff.

Marketing Assistance’s report, commissioned by customer service consultancy Blast Radius, said online retailers need to work on scheduling deliveries so customers are available to receive goods. Delivery waiting times also came in for heavy criticism.

It singled out B&Q and HMV as poor performers – albeit on the basis of a small number of orders. B&Q had several chances, it said, with the first item researchers tried to buy being out of stock, and the second and third purchase attempts failing to arrive, despite advanced phone calls booking a delivery slot. HMV, meanwhile, failed to deliver within 14 days following the first purchase, and seven days following the second. Both transactions were cancelled by researchers due to the excessive waiting period.

Retailers’ provisions for allowing buyers to return goods also disappointed. Despite providing the best online shopping experience in the UK according to the research, Amazon’s returns arrangements fell short of best practice. Similarly, Tesco was criticised for not including any returns information with the product at all, nor in replies to any of the four emails researchers send relating to the purchase.

"The study results show that investment by online retailers tends to focus on what they care about most, securing the sale,” said Lee Feldman, Blast Radius' chief creative officer. "This attention is at odds with what the customers focus on, what happens after they have made a purchase. ‘Service disconnect` is critical and reveals a short-sighted view of the customer based on immediate revenue collection where real value is gained from long-term relationships."

Amazon, Dell, Apple, Next and Comet were the UK’s top performing online retailers, according to the study.