RealTime IT News

Online Customers Looking for More R-E-S-P-E-C-T

If online consumers are unsatisfied with the service they are getting, companies are doing precious little to change that, according to a new report.

The Customer Respect Group, an international research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat their customers online, Friday released the results of its Summer 2003 Online Customer Respect Study of computer products and services firms that rank among the country's largest 1000 companies.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based firm assigns a Customer Respect Index (CRI) to each company after an in-depth analysis and independent measure of a customer's online experience when interacting with companies via the Internet.

By looking at more than 1000 Web sites across a spectrum of industries in detail, The Customer Respect Group has determined 25 different attributes that combine to create the entire online customer experience. These attributes have been grouped together and measured as indicators of Privacy (respects customer privacy), Principles (values and respects customer data), Attitude (customer-focus of site), Transparency (open and honest policies), Simplicity (ease of navigation), and Responsiveness (quick and thorough responses to inquiries). Combined they measure a company's overall Customer Respect.

So how do they rate? Overall, Hewlett-Packard scored highest (9.7 out of 10) in Customer Respect, while Cadence Design scored lowest (2.2).

"Overall, the Computer Products and Services sector hasn't made the substantive changes necessary to improve online customer respect," Customer Respect Group CEO Terri McNulty said in a statement. "Few of the poorer performing firms made significant gains since our last study. And despite small gains in overall responsiveness scores, one-third of firms still don't respond to inquiries and only 20 percent use autoresponder technology."

A partial list of how surveyed companies ranked.

  • Hewlett-Packard Company - 9.7
  • IBM - 9.5
  • Electronic Data Systems - 8.5
  • Dell - 8.3
  • EarthLink - 8.2
  • eBay - 8.0
  • Microsoft - 8.0
  • Sun Microsystems - 7.7
  • BMC Software - 7.5
  • Symbol Technologies - 7.4
  • Oracle - 5.7
  • PeopleSoft - 5.6
  • First Data - 5.5
  • Computer Associates - 5.4
  • Affiliated Computer Services - 3.9
  • Safeguard Scientifics - 3.6
  • Brightpoint - 3.4
  • Tech Data Corporation - 2.9
  • Cadence Design Systems - 2.2

Among the trends: The overall CRI dropped to 6.6 from 6.8, but the Responsiveness CRI improved slightly, from 5.2 to 5.5. In addition, the sector scored lower overall than firms in the Telecom Summer 2003 Online Customer Respect Study (overall CRI: 7.0) and exhibited lower responsiveness (Telecom firms scored 6.5, a full point higher than high-tech firms).

The recent Computer Products and Services sector survey adds in 500 additional companies compared to the analyst firm's Winter 2003 Online Customer Respect Study.

Disturbingly, the analysts found some 33 percent of those companies surveyed don't respond to online inquiries. Of those that do respond, 50 percent do so within 48 hours, 7 percent respond within 72 hours and 43 percent respond after 72 hours. In addition only 20 percent of these sector firms use Autoresponder technology, in which emails are automatically sent back to users to confirm the receipt of their inquiry and let them know when they should expect a response. Of these, 83 percent followed with a full response.

"Beyond this, surveyed firms should focus on key areas such as clarity of privacy principles and interaction with online customers if they wish to improve their CRI scores and better satisfy customers," McNulty said.