Online customers praise transportation companies

US transportation, distribution and logistics companies are doing a better job of treating online customers with respect, according to a new survey of the industry.

Mail, package and freight delivery companies have made the greatest improvements since the last study by The Customer Respect Group. Overall, the transportation, distribution and logistics industry scored a customer respect index of 7.0, up from 6.6 six months earlier. Scores in The Fourth Quarter 2005 Online Customer Respect Study of Transportation, Distribution and Logistics Industry range from a low of 1 to a high of 10, and the latest results move the transportation industry from fifth place to second among industries studied. It's tied with the retail industry and just behind the airline and travel industry, according to The Customer Respect Group.

The transportation companies that ranked highest in customer respect were Overnite Transportation with a score of 8.7, and Canada Post, Purolator Courier, United Parcel Service and the U.S. Postal Service, all of which received scores of 8.0. Overnite is a UPS company, and Canada Post owns 90 percent of the stock of Purolator.

Unlike the majority of transportation firms, which share customer data without permission, companies that had the highest customer respect scores have adopted opt-in policies and don't use personal information without a customer's permission, the survey said.

"When companies install new systems that make the reuse of data easier, they are then obligated to involve the customer and get their explicit consent," Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group, said in a statement. "By ignoring the customer's concerns, companies risk losing customer loyalty and repeat business. The burden has now shifted to the marketers to retain trust and protect their brand reputations."

The survey results indicate that all of the companies studied now tell customers about their policies regarding the use of personal data. "Especially strong in this area are Overnite, UPS and the U.S. Postal service, and their policies act as good examples of best practices," The Customer Respect Group said in a statement announcing the survey results. "Overnite had a perfect score in this area, with the other two companies only slightly behind."

In addition, while the number of e-mails ignored by most transportation companies rose by 23 percent, companies with the highest scores improved their levels of service, according to the survey. The industry showed a slight improvement in responding to e-mails in a timely manner: 61 percent were returned within a day of receipt, up from 5 percent. But the study found that the general helpfulness of those responses dropped slightly.

The survey also found that:

-- Web sites have improved in terms of user-focused features such as FAQs, site searches and site maps. Nearly two-thirds of the companies now have all three.

-- There was little change in the adherence to standards for assisting customers with visual impairments, with just half of the sites making some effort.

-- Forty-three percent of sites now give a full explanation of why cookies are used.

-- Sixty-two percent now explain how personal information can be updated.

-- All companies have a prominent link to their privacy policies on each page.

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