December 29, 2008, 12:00 AM

Customer satisfaction ebbed in December, as online shoppers proved tougher to please

Keeping customers happy is never easy, but it became even more of a challenge as the 2008 holiday season got underway, according to a study by research firm ForeSee Results.

Keeping customers happy is never easy, but it became even more of a challenge as the 2008 holiday season got underway, according to a study by research firm ForeSee Results, which measures customer satisfaction on retail web sites.

Consumer satisfaction with online shopping fell 3.09% during the second week after Thanksgiving compared to the same week in 2007, from 77.6 on a 100-point scale to 75.2, ForeSee reported. The satisfaction rating for the first week after Thanksgiving 2008 was down less than 1% compared to the prior year.

Lower satisfaction is to be expected this year because of the economic downturn, says Larry Freed, ForeSee president and CEO. However, he adds, “The satisfaction gap between last year and this year is growing and since we’ve seen our measures of online satisfaction tracking with comScore’s weekly revenue reports, it’s starting to look a little worrisome.” For the 2008 holiday season through November and the first 12 days of December, research firm comScore Inc. reported retail e-commerce spending was virtually unchanged from the same period a year earlier at $19.4 billion.

ForeSee provided the following measurements on online shopper satisfaction for 2007 and 2008, with the percentage change.

-Thanksgiving Weekend, 77.1, 75.5, -2.08%

-The Monday after Thanksgiving, 76.6, 75.5, -0.91%

-The week after Thanksgiving, 76.3, 75.6, -0.92%

-The second week after Thanksgiving, 77.6, 75.2, -3.09

Customer satisfaction with online prices was the same for the second week after Thanksgiving as during the prior week, ForeSee says. This likely means sales didn’t end as soon as customers might have expected, the company adds.

The study also found that online shopper satisfaction with web site navigation declined in the weeks after Thanksgiving. As e-retailers likely had not changed their navigation tools during the holiday period, ForeSee attributes the falling score to increased impatience by shoppers as they tried to wrap up online shopping as quickly as possible.

“Maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction throughout the holiday shopping period will separate the companies who are able not only to survive 2008, but to thrive, from those that will be closing their doors in January,” Freed says.

billb@verticalwebmedia.com

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