A new study evaluating the Web sites of the largest high-tech companies in the U.S. found a big disparity in the online experience.
The Customer Respect Group, a Bellevue, Wash.-based consultancy and researcher, looked at 90 online attributes and interviewed Web site users before ranking high-tech firms based on its customer respect index (CRI).
The index, due out Monday, tabulated six key online elements: a site's ease of navigation, customer focus, privacy, transparency, respect for customer data and responsiveness. The study did not address online customer support, since it generally requires user registration.
Science Applications International Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. earned the industry's top marks, a 9.5. Brightpoint Inc. finished dead last with a 2.6. (see sidebar for other scores)
Roger Fairchild, president of The Customer Respect Group, said that the 61 high-tech companies included in the study get high marks for posting privacy policies. Fifty-nine had done so.
Yet, 29% of the high-tech firms shared customer data without getting permission, a rate much higher than businesses in other industries, Fairchild said. Another problem area for the industry is responsiveness. Thirty-two percent didn't respond to online inquiries. Of those companies that use auto responder software, 42% never followed up with personal response.
"Technologically, [high-tech companies] get it right, but are they as sensitive as someone in a retail industry might be? No," Fairchild said.
Interestingly, two CRM leaders didn't fare all that well in the rankings, something Fairchild attributed to the "cobbler's child syndrome. " Siebel Systems Inc. came in with a CRI of 5.1 and PeopleSoft Inc. scored 5.8. The average industry CRI was 6.8.
CRIs were higher for other CRM vendors. Oracle Corp. notched an 8.5 and Microsoft Corp. got an 8.2.
The Customer Respect Group said companies have a vested interest in making online improvements. Ten percent of all U.S. business transactions are initiated through a Web site, and 20% of the time shoppers abandon a site and do business elsewhere because of a bad online experience, Fairchild said.
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