Loyalty unmoved during e-business evolution
The latest edition of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) shows that e-business models are evolving well without eroding either brand or customer loyalty, according to online satisfaction monitor, ForeSee Results.
During the second quarter of each year, the University of Michigan's ACSI measures online customer satisfaction with leading companies in the e-business sector, including portals, search engines, and news and information sites.
According to ForeSee's president and CEO, Larry Freed, all three categories of e-business did reasonably well this year with an aggregate score of 71.4 (on a scale of 100). This result is good, being close to the national average of all industries combined (73.8), showing an improvement of 3.8% since 2002 (up from 68.7).
Clear leaders Two of the three categories - search engines and portals - have clearly dominant players, although laggers in the portal category could possibly catch up with Yahoo!. In the search engine category, however, for other search engines to pull alongside or even surpass Google would be much less likely.
In the case of both the search engine and portal categories, the closest competition to the category leader is not a well-known brand but the "all others" group.
Keeping loyalty Companies that are leaders in the portal and search engine categories, and are also leaders in e-business in general, are doing a very good job of evolving their business models without losing customer satisfaction, loyalty, and brand power.
As Freed points out, "this is an extremely difficult balancing act, but they are doing it. In fact, they are not only maintaining the extraordinary approval of their customers (and strongest asset), they are getting stronger in terms of customer satisfaction, which is no small feat considering customers' increasing web savvy and steadily growing expectations."
Improvement possible But, even with its overall score of 71.4, the e-business sector (including the portal, search engine, and news and information categories) is still nowhere near the standard-setting performance of e-commerce (which includes e-retail, online brokerage, online travel, and online auction and reverse auction categories), which produced its best score to-date of 77.6.
But while the e-business sector may not measure up to the e-commerce sector in terms of overall customer satisfaction, there are notable performers in the e-business sector that are in the same ballpark as the top-ranked web sites in the e-commerce category. Both Google (82) and Yahoo! (78) closely rival the customer satisfaction levels of top e-commerce web sites such as Amazon (88) and Barnes & Noble (87).