When assessing customer service, one phone call or live chat conversation is not enough. To really gauge the quality of support, multiple tests across every channel must be conducted. In our assessment, phone support was weighed the heaviest, and comprised more than 50% of the overall score, with email and live chat following thereafter. If a broker did not offer live chat, then quality phone and email support became that much more important.

To ensure the highest quality testing data, we partner with professional private shopping group Confero to handle all phone tests. With clients like Coca Cola and Shell, Confero understands how to read between the lines and identify truly superior customer service. Using our StockBrokers.com industry-specific templates, Confero made over 100 phone calls to branch offices and support numbers across the United States.

This year, Merrill Edge was able to beat out Fidelity for the No. 1 spot overall. For the last two years, despite its size with millions of clients, Fidelity had taken the No. 1 spot with Merrill Edge finishing second. Merrill Edge ranked first for both phone and live chat, with Fidelity ranking first for email. The consistency and ability of support reps to deliver an A or A+ experience time and again are truly impressive.

Focusing first on phone support, most brokers were on top of their game, as 74% of all phone tests were connected to a rep within one minute. The brokers with the longest single hold times were ETRADE and OptionsHouse. In the case of ETRADE, fortunately the wait was the worst part of the call as the rep was courteous, polite, and had no trouble answering all of our questions. OptionsHouse also had no trouble answering our questions and concluded the call wishing us a good day. Unfortunately for OptionsHouse, this was the second consecutive year we experienced the longest wait time while calling them. Of all the phone tests we conducted (over 100), only five received a perfect score. In the end, Merrill Edge came out on top, followed by TD Ameritrade and Fidelity.

In the email department, Firstrade took the crown for the quickest overall average time to reply with every test receiving a reply in less than one hour. Out of all the email tests, 79% of the tests delivered replies within one business day, and only one broker, Lightspeed, failed to respond to a test. Six different brokers received at least one perfect test score; Capital One Investing received three. After the dust settled, Fidelity’s email support came out on top, with Firstrade and TD Ameritrade finishing second and third, respectively.

As far as live chat goes, experiences were mostly positive. 73% of all test calls were connected with a live rep within one minute. Comparing this year to last year, there was a dramatic improvement in the number of brokers who received at least one perfect score. Last year only one broker, Charles Schwab, received a perfect test score, whereas this year seven brokers achieved the same feat. With the number of live chat support sessions on the rise, given the communication preferences of younger generations, we were pleased to see brokers delivering consistent, high-quality interactive experiences.

When it comes to personalized service, no one does it better than Scottrade. Scottrade leverages its network of 503 retail locations, redirecting all customer phone calls during weekday office hours directly to its local branch offices. There is something special about the experience of knowing you are one of several million clients, yet when you call, you get the feeling your broker lives right next door. Scottrade is the only online broker to do this, and therefore earns the award again this year for Best Overall Client Experience.