March 31, 2003, 12:00 AM

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means...

More than a third of retail chains with online channels ignore customer requests for information, says the Winter 2003 Online Customer Respect Study. A full 37% of retail chains contacted through their web sites never responded to e-mail queries.

More than a third of retail chains with online channels ignore customer requests for information, says the Winter 2003 Online Customer Respect Study from research and consulting firm The Customer Respect Group. A full 37% of retail chains contacted through their web sites never responded to e-mail queries, the same as failed in the prior survey, Customer Respect Group reports. “If 37% of companies refused to answer questions from customers in a physical store, that would be considered unacceptable,” says Donal Daly, Customer Respect Group CEO. “The same should be true for an online store.”

The Customer Respect Group reports that 63% of specialty retailers responded to e-mails within 48 hours, 52% of general-merchandise retail chains responded within 48 hours; 4% within 72; and 7% took longer.

The Customer Respect Group identifies 25 attributes that create the online customer experience. It groups these attributes into privacy (respects customer privacy); principles (respects customer data); attitude (‘body language’ of site); transparency (open and honest policies); simplicity (customer-focused usable site); and responsiveness (quick and thorough responses to inquiries). It surveys more than 500 web sites, then assigns a Customer Respect Index to each company.

The highest ranked organization within retail was Walgreen at 9.4 out of 10, while the lowest was Core Mark International at 1.9. The retail sector’s average was 6.7. In specialty retail, the highest ranked was Costco at 9.3; the lowest was United Auto Group at 3.4. The specialty sector’s average was 7.

The study also reported that only 37% of the general retail group and 29% of specialty retailers use auto-response technology, in which e-mails are automatically sent back to users to confirm receipt and let them know when they should expect a response. Of these, 4% in both groups never followed up with a personalized message.

“The quality of e-commerce sites has definitely improved over the past few years and millions of dollars have been spent on design and backend systems,” Daly says. “Unfortunately retailers still seem to lack the basics.”

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