Survey: E-business stronger, customer service lags

While the overall state of the Internet is healthy, there is room for improvement in customer experience and e-business health, according to a survey released Wednesday by Keynote Systems, a Web performance monitoring company.

Keynote's first State of the Internet Union survey offers a summarized look at Web sites with the best overall customer experience, as well as site users' "top frustrations," and "top satisfactions" in 2004.

In its survey, Keynote summarizes its 2004 reports, which examined the attitudes and behavior of online consumers across more than two dozen vertical industries. Through the course of the year, Keynote also evaluated more than 200 leading Web sites and measured the attitudes and behaviors of more than 25,000 consumers as they interacted with the sites.

"Although the state of the Internet union is stronger, consumers are still expressing many frustrations with leading commercial Web sites, and much more can be done in the area of customer experience management," Bonny Brown, Keynote's director of research and public services, said in a statement.

"In addition, many sites can also improve their technical performance," Brown said. "This year, significant site availability issues occurred among very well-known retail and travel Web sites, especially around the holidays, pointing to the need to pay increased attention to e-business IT health and service level management."

According to Keynote, the top three online consumer frustrations in 2004 were limited information, poor search and comparison functions, and complicated registration/purchase processes. When consumers become frustrated with a specific company's Web site, they are much more inclined to jump to a competitor's site -- and lower their overall perceptions of the retailer they had visited first, according to Keynote.

Keynote reported that consumers say the keys to customer satisfaction include good Web site design and organization, a simple and smooth purchase process, and excellent online customer support.

Keynote said its studies have consistently shown that sites delivering a positive online experience augment brand perceptions and customer loyalty and increase the chances that a consumer will purchase from those sites.

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