The Customer Respect Group, an international research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat their online customers, has recently released findings from its Fourth Quarter 2005 Online Customer Respect Study of the Transportation, Distribution and Logistics Industry. This is the fifth study conducted on the industry, and while it demonstrates an overall increase in customer satisfaction, it also makes clear that the gains are not evenly spread.
The study brings an objective and consistent measure to the analysis of corporate performance from an online customers perspective. It assigns a Customer Respect Index (CRI) rating for each company and is a qualitative and quantitative in-depth analysis and an independent measure of a customers experience when interacting with companies via the Internet.
By interviewing a representative sample of applicable Internet users and analyzing and categorizing more than 2,000 corporate Web sites across a spectrum of industries, the Customer Respect Group has identified the attributes that together measure the online customer experience. This report analyzed mail, package and freight delivery, trucking and truck leasing and mail facilitation Web sites to obtain a good sample of the sector.
Overall, the transportation, distribution and logistics industry scored a CRI rating of 7.0, versus 6.6 for its last report in the second quarter of 2005. This continues a slow, yet consistent trend of steady improvement for the industry. The score moves the industry from fifth position to a joint second with the retail industry, just behind the airline and travel industry. The improvements, however, are largely concentrated in the mail, package and freight delivery sector.
Protecting Customers Privacy
The industry showed continuing growth in an ability to reuse customer information, especially for ongoing marketing back to the customer base. Much of this marketing is performed without the explicit consent of the customer. One year ago, 33% of the companies studied consistently reused information for marketing. Six months ago, the figure grew to 42%, and in this study, the number has grown to 67%. The reuse of information extended beyond the organization; nearly a quarter of the companies either share information externally or are ambiguous, up from 16%.
In marked contrast, Overnite Transportation Company, Canada Post, Purolator, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service have, for the most part, ignored the activities of others in the industry and migrated to an opt-in strategy, where there is no reuse of personal information without explicit consent. Not surprisingly, the Web sites from these sector firms ranked excellent, and not for the first time; these companies have consistently performed well in recent studies.
One-on-One Communications Correlate with Customer Satisfaction
Similar findings exist in the area of one-on-one communications. While the level of ignored e-mails remained steady, even showing a slight increase at 23%, the leading companies all exhibited significantly improved levels of service. This seems to demonstrate an increasing gap between companies; some are able to manage the increasing capacity of e-mail traffic as customers migrate to e-mail as a preferred communication method, while various other companies are not. The industry showed a marginal improvement in timeliness of e-mail responses, with 61% being returned within a day of receipt, up from 55%, but the general helpfulness of those responses showed a slight decline.
A key finding was the improvement in clarity of policies as explained to the customer. Transparency is an important first step to improving customer-oriented policies. All the companies studied now make mention of their policies toward personal data, and this is the first time this has been true in the industry. Especially strong in this area are Overnite, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service, and their policies act as good examples of best practices.
How Does This Study Affect My Organization?
This survey demonstrates unequivocally the importance that customers place on excellent customer service, and more specifically, the way companies handle sensitive personal information. It is no coincidence that the companies that scored highest in this study are also those who guard their customers information the closest and also communicate clearly their policies regarding disclosure of this information. Other organizations would do well to take note of this fact. When companies install new systems that make the reuse of data easier, they are then obligated to involve the customers and get their explicit consent. By ignoring the customers concerns, companies risk losing customer loyalty and repeat business. The bar has been raised in terms of putting the power back into the hands of the customer. The burden has now shifted to the marketers to retain trust and protect their brand reputations, and it will be interesting to see how they handle the challenge.
Terry Golesworthy is President of The Customer Respect Group, an international research and consulting firm that uses its Customer Respect Index and Privacy Index to help companies improve their treatment of customers online. The Customer Respect Group is headquartered in metropolitan
The Top Five
The top-scoring sector firms and their CRI ratings were:
Company Web Site Score
Overnite Transportation Company www.overnite.com 8.7
Canada Post www.canadapost.com 8.0
Purolator www.purolator.com 8.0
United Parcel Service www.ups.com 8.0
United States Postal Service www.usps.com 8.0
For the complete table, please go to www.customerrespect.com.