Monday, October 16, 2006

Customer Respect Group: Wish I'd Thought of It First

A press release from The Customer Respect Group ( last week announced results from a survey of how “High-Technology and Computer Industry” companies treat their customers online. (Short answer: a bit better than average except that they’re really bad at answering emails.)

But who is the Customer Respect Group? A look at their Web site shows they visit corporate Web sites, score them on a 100 or so elements, and sell the results to anyone who is interested. Quite frankly, this is brilliant. It can’t take more than a couple of hours to review a site and companies don’t have to agree to participate, so it’s both cheap and easy to build a large database of entries. Once you have that, what big company wouldn’t to pay $595 to see detailed results for itself and its competitors? Smaller companies can pay for a custom review of their own site, which can again be compared to the larger database. Plus, the reports themselves are eminently publicizable—the media loves surveys—and, indeed, Customer Respect Group issues one press release per month like clockwork,

You’re probably expecting me to say something negative here, but I won’t. Anything that gets companies to pay attention to their customers’ experiences is good. I would only like to see the survey results carried further.

- To other channels. After all, Web sites are just part of a total customer experience. But similar research is much more expensive outside of the Web, so you’d need a different business model. This is what “secret shopper” services do, for example.

- Across multiple channels. Consistency may be overrated but inconsistency is no great joy, either. Companies need to score the consistency of their customer treatments across channels, both in general and for individual customers. This is more manageable than comparing themselves against other companies, so it is a reasonable project to consider.

- Tied to financial value. Measuring yourself against peers and best practices provides some motive for improvement. But (with apologies to Dr. Johnson), nothing concentrates the business mind like lost profit. You can’t tie an over-all Web experience score to directly to business results because there are too many intervening variables. But you can certainly look at strengths and weaknesses highlighted by a Web site analysis and estimate their impact on customer behavior and, ultimately, on customer value. Again, this is beyond the scope of what Customer Respect Group does but it’s what you need to get real value from their results.

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