Many of the Fortune 100 companies are not taking their internet presence seriously, and often ignore genuine enquiries from their web sites, according to the '2002 Online Fortune 100 Customer Respect Study' from CustomerRespect.com.
The annual report, which analyses the performance of companies from the online customers' perspective, assigns a customer respect index to each company, based on customers' online interaction experiences.
The study's findings suggest that the internet is not yet viewed seriously by many of the Fortune 100 companies.
A necessary evil?
The report's author, Donal Daly, asserts that some companies that have spent a lot on developing their web presence may view it as a necessary evil rather than an opportunity to deepen relationships with existing customers, or to embrace a new generation of potential customers.
However, more positively, the study notes that the online experience created for customers by the remaining companies is excellent, and shows a good grasp of the issues that attract online customers.
The 430-page report defines benchmarks for 25 different attributes of customer respect that a company can exhibit through its web presence, which are grouped together and measured as indicators of:
· Privacy (respecting customer privacy)
· Principles (values and respects customer data)
· Attitude ('body language' of the site)
· Transparency (open and honest policies)
· Simplicity (customer-focused, usable site)
· Responsiveness (quick and thorough responses)
While the average overall index is 6.5 (out of a possible 10), the average responsiveness index is only 4.8. On the positive side, some 9% of the companies achieved perfect scores for responsiveness, with 41% replying to enquiries within 48 hours.
The insurance sector was the most responsive, with every company offering a response, and 67% responding within two working days.
Drug companies were the poorest, with only two companies (Cardinal Health and Johnson and Johnson) even providing a response.
According to Daly, "It is evident that many companies have made significant investments in the development and maintenance of their web sites. But many aren't using technology well to cultivate customer relationships and generate a return on their online investment."
The survey found that 37% of Fortune 100 companies offered no reply at all to general enquiries submitted to their web site, despite offering an online form or e-mail contact details for that purpose.
Other key findings
The report also shows that 45% of sites force customers to opt out if they don't wish to receive unsolicited e-mails from them, and that 15% actually sell customer data without seeking permission to do so. In addition, some 83% of sites offer no auto-response function to notify customers that their communication has been received and will be acted upon.