Study: High-tech lags in online service

Information technology companies rank lower than airline, travel and telecom firms when it comes to things like responding to online inquiries, a study shows.

Alorie Gilbert
Alorie Gilbert Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Alorie Gilbert
writes about software, spy chips and the high-tech workplace.
2 min read
Do information technology companies practice what they preach?

Judging by the results of a recent online customer service study, not always. High-tech companies, as a group, ranked lower than airline, travel and telecom companies when it comes to things like responding to online inquiries, according to the study, conducted by Internet research firm The Customer Respect Group.

The Customer Respect Group, backed by business consulting firm International Ventures in Dublin, Ireland, analyzed the Web sites of 500 large U.S. companies for the quality of online interaction. Among the findings: One-third of 24 leading high-tech companies in the study didn't respond to inquiries submitted through their Web sites.

"To me that was one of the big surprises," said Thorsten Ganz, vice president of research at The Customer Respect Group. "This is the high-tech industry, and they are supposed to have all the bells and whistles in place."

Service was not the pits at all high-tech company sites, however. Hewlett-Packard, Dell Computer, Xerox, IBM and Microsoft all scored 9 points or more out of a possible 10. The average for the entire high-tech group was 6.8.

Another finding that surprised Ganz was that less than 30 percent of the companies that did respond to online inquires replied immediately using "autoresponder" technology. And only slightly over half of the sites studied provided keyword search functions.

On the positive side, high-tech Web sites on the whole scored high on privacy policy disclosure and ease of navigation.

None of the 24 high-tech companies ranked in the study are clients of The Customer Respect Group, which sells research and consulting related to improving online customer experience, Ganz said.