Online retailers are doing a better job of responding to customers" inquiries, but they continue to share users" personal data without permission, according to the "Third Quarter 2005 Online Customer Respect Study of Retailers." The study was conducted by The Customer Respect Group Inc. in Ipswich, Mass.
The retail sector scored slightly higher than it did six months ago, with a customer respect index of 7.0 -- up slightly from the 6.8 figure recorded in the previous study. The index scores range from 1 to 10, with 10 being better.
Just two retailers reached the "excellent" level: Payless ShoeSource Inc. and CVS Corp., both newcomers to the top 10, according to the survey.
Topeka, Kan.-based Payless did especially well after rebuilding its site since the last study with a stronger customer focus, said Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group. The retailer also had by far the most improved site, he said.
Online retailers are responding to customer inquiries faster, their answers are more helpful, and they are ignoring fewer e-mails, according to Golesworthy. Just 9 percent of e-mail inquiries were ignored, far better than the 22 percent recorded in the prior survey.
"What we found is that responding to e-mail has really come a long way in the retail industry over the last two or three reports," he said. "This shows a real adoption of e-mail as a communication process. A year ago, it was kind of spotty; six months ago, it was OK; and now it"s actually quite good. So that"s a good trend."
However, companies are still capturing customer data and sharing that information with third parties without permission, he said.
"Now that the industry is quite large, they"re capturing more customer information, and the sharing of the information has gotten a little broader than it used to be," Golesworthy said. "Sharing information between companies seems to be on the increase in the retail industry, which is not a good thing."
In addition, he said Web sites in the retail industry have become bigger, more complex and more difficult to traverse. "They"re trying to jam so much stuff on the sites these days, it gets a little more tricky to navigate," he said.