E-businesses are getting better overall in the view of their customers, but performance varies widely from company to company, according to the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) study released on Wednesday.
The report, which includes measurements of search engines, portals, and online news and information websites as part of the e-business category, identifies a few outstanding performers and shows that Google, Yahoo!, and others are pulling off the extraordinary feat of morphing their business models without losing customer satisfaction and loyalty, while other companies lag behind.
Google and Yahoo! have scores that place them among the best performers of any of the roughly 200 top companies the ACSI measures on an annual basis. The new report revealed that AOL, though still a weak performer, has made a dramatic improvement in the past year and may be on the path to restoring the strength of its customer base. Meantime, the major news and information websites maintain a solid showing but demonstrate none of the signs that they dramatically impress their customers like the best Internet companies.
Overall, the ACSI e-business industry score improved over last year, up to 71.4 from 68.7 in 2002 (on a scale from 0-100). The e-business industry score trails the national ACSI score (73.8), which aggregates all industries measured by the Index, both online and traditional. Both the e-business score and the national average are dramatically below the rating consumers gave e-commerce (77.6) in a report released in February 2003.
Search Engines: Google has consistently been far and away the best performer in this category (82), and one of the best in any category measured by the ACSI. Ask Jeeves improved its performance an impressive seven points, up to 69, but nowhere near enough to make a dent in Google’s lead. The other company named in the report, Alta Vista, trailed badly, earning only a 63. Both search engines lag “all others” in the category, mostly niche players who collectively earned a 78-which is a strong score that bears watching.
“Google’s score is more than enough to dominate the search engine field,” said web expert and ForeSee Results CEO Larry Freed. “In fact, their score shows they have one of the strongest relationships with their customers of any kind of company, online or offline. What’s remarkable is that they are not leaving their customers behind while they continue to evolve their business model. That’s a tough balancing act-and they’re not just maintaining the strength of the customer asset, they are actually improving it from year to year.”