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12/28/2007
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Online Customer Satisfaction Dips This Holiday Season

Overall in the ForeSee/FGI study, 10 online sites increased customer satisfaction from a year ago and 18 saw their scores fall.

Overall customer satisfaction among the 40 largest retailers on the Web fell slightly during this year's holiday shopping season, as online sales growth in general slowed against a backdrop of economic jitters among consumers, a study shows.

On a 100-point scale, overall customer satisfaction fell one point from 2006 to an Online Retail Satisfaction Index of 74, according to ForeSee Results, which compiles the annual index in partnership with FGI Research Data. Netflix led the 40 largest online retailers in terms of satisfaction with a score of 86, while CompUSA was at the bottom with 67.

Retailers that scored 80 or above this year were Amazon.com, 82; QVC, 80; and L.L. Bean, 80. Amazon held on to second place despite dropping two points from last year. Scores for the latter two vendors were unchanged. Among computer and electronics retailers, Apple led with a score of 79.

On the other end of the spectrum, CompUSA and OfficeMax were the only vendors to score below 70. CompUSA's score fell two points from last year. OfficeMax, which scored 68, was not included in last year's study.

"Customers are least satisfied with the price element for both of these retailers," said the study, released this week. "Especially in the current tough retail climate, customer satisfaction laggards will need to do more to meet and exceed customers' needs, or risk further erosion of satisfaction, loyalty, and eventually, market share."

Online retailers this year competed for customers in a climate in which the growth in holiday sales was slower than last year. As of Dec. 18, the season-to-date growth rate was 19% over 2006, which surpassed 2005 by 26%.

The Grinch of the holiday season this year is the economy, experts say. Consumers have held back spending because of anxiety over the subprime home mortgage meltdown, the decline in home values, higher gas prices, and an uncertain stock market.

Overall in the ForeSee/FGI study, 10 sites increased customer satisfaction from a year ago and 18 saw their scores fall. The overall performance was worse than last year, when 24 sites improved their scores from the previous year and only seven suffered declines.

"This data reinforces the necessity for online retailers to continually enhance their sites based on the voice of customer feedback in order to stay ahead of the evolving expectations of online shoppers, which can be difficult in a tough economy and price-driven retail climate," the study said.

FGI and ForeSee, a privately held company focusing on online satisfaction measurement and management, analyze data for the report using a methodology developed by the University of Michigan for its American Customer Satisfaction Index. ACSI is an economic indicator that measures customer satisfaction in seven sectors: manufacturing-nondurables; manufacturing-durables; retail; finance and insurance; public administration and government; transportation and communications and utilities; and services.

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