You ask your customers to give you all their money, and all they ask in return is for a little respect.
And when it comes to providing that respect to online customers, some high tech companies fare far better than others, according to a recent report from The Customer Respect Group Inc., based in Boston.
In its most recent Online Customer Respect Study, the firm found that companies were open and honest with their policies, but showed poor responsiveness and privacy controls. For example, more than one-third of high tech companies still share personal information with third parties without permission, the report said.
Customer Respect has been issuing reports for several years, and scores remain stagnant, according to Terry Golesworthy, president.
"Logically, the type of companies spending more and putting an emphasis on this -- those that are targeting the Web for faster revenue growth -- are performing better," Golesworthy said, noting high scorers such as eBay, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. "You can argue it's because they're big, but it's also because they're focused on revenue generation on the Web."
High tech as a category performs worse than the overall average on the Customer Respect Index. The overall average of the companies measured was 6.2, while high tech averaged a 6.0 on the 10-point scale.
Customer Respect evaluates industry leading companies in 13 different industries. A company's respect for online customers is determined based on simplicity, or ease of navigating the site; responsiveness, or the speed and thoroughness of responding to inquiries; privacy; and attitude, or customer focus of the site. Organizations are then evaluated and ranked with other companies.
In the high tech category, Microsoft scored highest with an 8.6. Siebel Systems Inc., on the other hand, was the lowest scorer in the computer software category, scoring a 4.1.
"I was surprised to see them down there, because they have a strong customer base and they're in the CRM industry," Golesworthy said. "They scored particularly poorly on responsiveness. If you look at the whole CRM process of customers, it's interesting they're poor there."
Siebel is not alone in high tech for scoring poorly on responsiveness. The industry as a whole fared particularly poorly, Golesworthy said.
Of the companies measured, 20% do not acknowledge they have received a customer e-mail, while others had long delays before they would respond and would provide little information on how they were responding to the request, Golesworthy said. Often these companies have not established a business process for electronic inquiries.
"A more positive aspect is there's been growth in what we call transparency," he added. "How clear you are with your policies, explaining what you do with cookies -- that has improved."
How these organizations measure up with online customer respect impacts the bottom line, Golesworthy said. Privacy in particular has become a point of emphasis. The report found that 11% need to be more explicit about how they share customer data, 15% share data with affiliates or subsidiaries and 22% share data with business partners without permission from users.
"Increasingly, the protection of data and privacy is becoming a signature issue within the user population," Golesworthy said. "The people who spend time and effort resolving these are getting more revenue."