Disrespect driving away online retail customers

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on April 27, 2004

The 'Spring 2004 Online Customer Respect Study' of 52 major retailers has revealed some surprising inadequacies in the treatment of online customers, according to the study's publisher, The Customer Respect Group (CRG). Among other problems, researchers found that 94% of online forms on surveyed sites were deemed to be "not easy to use" by those with disabilities.

This was the first of CRG's online customer respect studies ever to include the attribute of merchants' respect for individuals with disabilities, and the results seem to show that these consumers are largely overlooked when e-commerce is planned and executed. This is an important issue since the proportion of people with disabilities can be up to as much as 20% in some populations.

Complexity is a turn-off
Looking at other attributes and consumer attitudes, research has recently found that 54% of users who abandoned web sites in the previous three months cited a lack of simplicity as the main reason for doing so, and 70% said they would go to a competitor if a web site was difficult to use.

Fortunately, the retailers surveyed scored highest in terms of simplicity, although many provided very 'heavy' web pages (meaning lots of images and content that makes a page slower to load), making it difficult for dial-up users to move quickly through the site.

Lacking principles?
In terms of principles, the survey found that almost two in every five retailers (39%) share their customers' data with business partners without seeking permission first, and that 20% share data with affiliates without permission.

The highest ranked organisations within the retail sector were Foot Locker and Amazon.com (both with 7.9 out of 10), while the lowest score was ShopKo Stores (with 3.9 out of 10). The sector's average was 6.6. Beyond these scores, the report also details improvement opportunities for each company surveyed.

"This research is our most authoritative to date as the list of online customer respect attributes has expanded, based on what users say is important to them," said Roger Fairchild, president for The Customer Respect Group. "In this study, we've found that retailers are doing a good job in several areas, including simplicity, transparency and attitude. But in the area of principles, we are very concerned that more than one-third of them share customer data without permission."

"Despite the fact that our society is beginning to address issues for physically disabled people in the physical world, our research indicates that this attitude hasn't yet permeated the online world. We would remind retailers that their customers highly prize their privacy," concluded Fairchild.

About the index
The study aims to bring objective measure to the analysis of corporate performance from an online customer's perspective. It does so by assigning a Customer Respect Index (CRI) rating to each company on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest achievable score. The CRI is a qualitative and quantitative analysis and independent measure of a customer's online experience when interacting with companies via the internet.

By interviewing a representative sample of the adult internet population, and by analysing more than 1,000 web sites across a range of industries, The Customer Respect Group has determined a set of attributes that combine to create the overall online customer experience. These attributes are grouped together and measured as indicators of Simplicity (ease of navigation), Responsiveness (quick and thorough responses to inquiries), Privacy (respecting customers' privacy), Attitude (customer-focus of the site), Transparency (open and honest policies) and Principles (the merchant values and respects customer data).

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