August 28, 2002, 12:00 AM

Compared to other industries, online retailing rates well with customers

At a rating of 77, consumers are satisfied with the job e-retailers are doing more so than they are satisfied with business as a whole, as measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

In spite of what e-retailing insiders think of how well their industry is meeting customers’ needs, consumers in general like the job e-retailers are doing--and in fact they rank their satisfaction with e-retailers higher than they rank their satisfaction with business as a whole, as measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. The national average for customer satisfaction with American business as a whole is 73. Customer satisfaction with online retailing is 77. E-retailing insiders give their business only a 58 (see, 8/7).

“Customers are very happy with the service levels of e-commerce retailers,” says Larry Freed, president of ForeSee Results Inc., which measures customer satisfaction levels. “The e-retailers that have survived have done a great job of figuring out how to do it.”

By comparison, American consumers give overall retailing a satisfaction score of 74.8. In subcategories of retailing, customers rate department/discount stores a 75, specialty stores, 73, and supermarkets, 75. Customers give the financial services industry a 75.9 rating; energy utilities, 73; restaurants, 71; telecommunications, 71; hospitals, 70; general e-business, 68.7; health care insurance, 68; cable TV, 61. The American Customer Satisfaction Index tracks satisfaction in 43 categories of business.

In general e-business, customers rated their satisfaction with news and information sites a 73. Portals and search sites each earned a 68 rating. Online retailing ranked higher than other online services because retailers have transferred a lot of what they learned from offline retailing to online retailing. The same is true of news and information sites. By contrast, the new industries of portals and searches are still learning, Freed says. “”There’s not an offline equivalent to portals and search as there is for retailing and news,” Freed says. “So they are still trying to determine consumers’ wants and needs in their online offerings.”

Among particular online retailers that Foresee tracks, Amazon had the highest score at 84, followed by Barnes & Noble’s at 82, at 78, and 1-800-Flowers at 76. Amazon’s score is among the highest that Foresee has found for any company, Freed says. No company has ever had a score in the 90s.


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