October 11, 2005, 12:00 AM

Online retailers are getting more responsive to consumers, survey says

Retailers are becoming more responsive to customer inquiries but still have room for improvement in protecting consumer privacy, according to a new report from The Customer Respect Group, an Ipswich, MA, research and consulting firm.

Retailers are becoming more responsive to customer inquiries but still have room for improvement in protecting consumer privacy, according to a new report from The Customer Respect Group, an Ipswich, MA, research and consulting firm.

In a recent analysis of 2,000 corporate web sites, the group found that the 53 major retailers in the study scored higher than average in responsiveness. It found that just 9% of e-mail inquiries were ignored, an improvement from the 22% recorded for the last survey.

In addition, there were significant increases from the previous study in the percentage of e-mail replies sent within 24 hour (65% vs. 40%) and for the helpfulness of replies (74% vs. 67%).

However, retailers still have room for improvement in the areas of collection and sharing of personal data, according to the study. Of the retailers, 45% share data with business partners and outside third parties without the explicit permission of the customers. In addition, 72% gave no clear instructions on how consumers could delete information held and 79% use that data for ongoing e-marketing.

“With poor privacy policies in place, and those policies becoming more openly discussed, some companies will find it harder to obtain accurate data and get permission to market back to customers,” said Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group. “In short, they will lose the customer’s trust. That will clearly affect online revenues.”

Retailers receiving the top customer respect ratings are Payless Shoesource (8.1), CVS Corp. (8.0), L.L. Bean (7.9), Liz Claiborne Inc. (7.9). Blockbuster (7.8), DVD Empire (7.8), Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (7.8), Nike (7.7), Amazon.com (7.6), and Barnes & Noble (7.6).

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