E-tail satisfaction: only a few bright spots show up
In the Customer Respect Group's Q1 2005 online customer respect study of consumer products companies, there were some bright spots - such as Nike's top score for the apparel category - amid an otherwise poor performance industry-wide.
Overall, Nike fared best among apparel firms (and best overall), while Steelcase topped the furniture list, Gillette scored highest among household and personal products companies, and Fortune Brands scored best among toys and sporting goods firms.
Consumer products companies reached a poor average score of 4.0 in the responsiveness index. By comparison, the firms surveyed in the Largest 100 Companies 2004 report averaged 4.4. That is reflected in the fact that 37% of consumer products firms didn't respond to all online enquiries submitted by users. Of those that did respond, only half (51%) responded within what users consider an acceptable timeframe - one day.
Data sharing Some 10% of these companies also share customers' data with business partners without seeking permission, and 7% share data with unrelated outside parties. It is positive, however, that 55% of companies don't share personal data without explicit consent, while 22% use data only for internal marketing purposes. It was not possible, however, for the researchers to determine what the other 4% do with data they collect.
"This sector represents some of the best know brands in the world. These companies spend millions on the reputation of their brands," explained Terry Golesworthy, president for The Customer Respect Group. "The web site has now become the front door for many consumers to research companies and their products, so it is vital now that the online visitor is fully respected. Users should be able to locate site information easily, be assured that their own information isn't shared without permission, and know that enquiries will be answered in a prompt and comprehensive manner. Companies that ignore the online visitor can seriously affect any carefully and expensively established brand reputation."
Key findings Among the study's key findings for all surveyed firms were:
- Consumer product firms received the best overall rating (CRI: 7.3) for Transparency and the worst (CRI: 4.0) for Responsiveness.
- 35% of all sector firms use Autoresponder technology, in which emails are automatically sent to users to confirm the receipt of their enquiry and let them know when they should expect a response.
- 37% of firms did not respond consistently or did not respond at all to online enquiries, resulting in nearly 30% of all online inquiries being ignored.
- Of the enquiries that were responded to, 51% responded within one day, 34% responded within two days, and 15% responded more than two days later.
- Looking at all enquiries made, including those ignored, only 36% were answered within a day of being sent.
- 97% have privacy policies on their web sites explaining how personal data is being used. Only 4% need to be more explicit about how they use personal data, while 76% either do not collect data or they use data only for internal purposes, another 10% share data with business partners, and 7% share data with unrelated businesses without permission from users.
- Some 86% of surveyed firms use cookie technology. Of these, only 10% provide a full explanation about what advantage they provide the user and what data they hold.
- After personal data is collected, 10% of sites provide no means to opt out of future marketing campaigns. Nearly half (48%) provide users with an online means to opt in to future marketing communications, but only 35% provide an online means to opt out.
- 8% always use SSL web pages to provide security when collecting personal data.
- Finally, all of the companies researched in the study will need to make changes to their web sites to ensure that they are reaching both disabled and non-disabled site visitors alike.