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Largest North American Telecommunications and Networking Firms Ranked on How They Treat Online Customers in Second Quarter 2005 Online Customer Respect Study.

BOSTON -- Strong Improvements Result in Highest CRI Industry Average to Date in 2005; But Work Still Needed With Sharing of Personal Data

The Customer Respect Group, an international research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat their customers online, today released the results of its Second Quarter 2005 Online Customer Respect Study of North America's largest telecommunications and networking firms.

Verizon Wireless did best in the Telecommunications category (and best overall), while Charter Communications fared worst. Ericsson topped the Networking/Communications Equipment list, while Qualcomm came in last. The most improved was CenturyTel.

The study is the only one to bring objective measure to the analysis of corporate performance from an online customer's perspective. It assigns a Customer Respect Index (CRI(TM)) rating to each company. The Customer Respect Index is a qualitative and quantitative in-depth analysis and independent measure of a customer's online experience when interacting with companies via the Internet. Scores of 8.0 and above are considered excellent and show an admirable level of Customer Respect.

By interviewing a representative sample of the adult Internet population, and by analyzing and categorizing more than 2000 corporate Web sites across a spectrum of industries in detail, The Customer Respect Group has determined the attributes that combine to create the entire online customer experience. These attributes have been grouped together and measured as indicators of Simplicity (ease of navigation), Responsiveness (quick and helpful responses to inquiries), Privacy (respect for the privacy of the customer), Attitude (customer-focus of site), Transparency (open and honest policies) and Principles (values and respects customer data). Combined they measure a company's overall Customer Respect.

Summary Results/Comparisons

Although a direct comparison is difficult because of the inclusion of industry-specific questions, the average CRI based on 660 surveys of corporate Web sites in various industries throughout 2004 was 5.9. Meanwhile, the firms in this study scored considerably better at 6.9, which is the highest overall industry average observed to date in 2005. In the last Telecom and Networking report in Q4 2004, this industry scored 6.4.

In the area of Responsiveness, only 17 percent of inquiries went unanswered by companies in this industry compared with an all-industry average of 27 percent in 2004. Moreover, from 2004 to 2005 the percentage of Telecom/Networking companies that didn't respond to any inquiries dropped to 12 percent from 23 percent. Disappointingly only 56 percent of the responses were judged to be helpful.

However, this industry did not compare favorably to the overall 2004 average in every area. The percentage of Telecommunication and Networking companies that share personal data with business partners or third parties is 28 percent, four percentage points more than the all-industry average in 2004. It is however, much improved from the 49 percent recorded in the prior Telecom/Networking report.

"We very much like the direction in which the Telecom and Networking industries are moving with their Web sites," said Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group. "That said, we still see room for improvement in a number of areas, including Privacy. Consumers are very sensitive to having their data shared with others, and our research indicates that firms that don't implement opt-in policies can expect to see a backlash. Moreover, while Responsiveness has improved in some areas, far too many responses were considered unhelpful."

The report conveys in great detail improvement opportunities for each company. The sector's Second Quarter 2005 rankings are as follows:
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Telecommunications Companies URL CRI
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Verizon Wireless www.verizonwireless.com 8.5
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Nextel Communications, Inc. www.nextel.com 8.3
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Sprint Corporation www.sprint.com 8.3
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CenturyTel, Inc. www.centurytel.com 8.2
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BT Group PLC www.bt.com 8.1
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T-Mobile USA, Inc. www.t-mobile.com 7.9
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Comcast Corporation www.comcast.com 7.8
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MCI Inc. www.mci.com 7.7
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Rogers Communications Inc. www.rogers.com 7.5
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Qwest Communications International www.qwest.com
 Inc. 7.4
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Bell Canada www.bell.ca 7.3
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Cable & Wireless www.cw.com/uk 7.3
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O2 UK www.o2.co.uk 7.3
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TELUS Corporation www.telus.com 7.3
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Verizon Communications Inc. www.verizon.com 7.3
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Vodafone Group www.vodafone.co.uk 7.3
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AT&T Corp. www.att.com 7.2
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ALLTEL Corporation www.alltel.com 7.1
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Cablevision Systems Corp. www.cablevision.com 7.0
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SBC Communications Inc. www.sbc.com 7.0
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BellSouth Corp. www.bellsouth.com 6.9
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Microcell Solutions Inc. www.fido.ca 6.9
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Cox Communications, Inc. www.cox.com 6.8
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Shaw Communications Inc. www.shaw.ca 6.8
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NTL group ltd. www.ntl.com 6.7
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TDS Telecom www.tdstelecom.com 6.6
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Western Wireless Corporation www.cellularonewest.com 6.5
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Level 3 Communications, Inc. www.level3.com 6.2
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Cingular Wireless www.cingular.com 5.9
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Orange www.orange.co.uk 5.8
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IDT Corporation www.idt.net 5.6
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Primus Wireless www.primuswireless.com 5.0
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Charter Communications, Inc. www.chartercom.com 4.8
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Sector Average 6.9
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Network and Other Communications Equipment CRI
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Ericsson www.ericcson.com 8.3
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Nortel Networks Limited www.nortelnetworks.com 7.9
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Motorola, Inc. www.motorola.com 7.3
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Cisco Systems, Inc. www.cisco.com 7.2
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Juniper Networks www.juniper.net 7.2
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Siemens AG www.siemens.com 7.2
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Nokia Corporation www.nokia.com 7.0
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Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications www.sonyericsson.com 7.0
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3Com Corporation www.3com.com 6.9
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D-link Corporation www.d-link.com 6.8
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NETGEAR, Inc. www.netgear.com 6.8
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Linksys, A Division of Cisco Systems, www.linksys.com
 Inc. 6.7
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Alcatel www.alcatel.com 6.3
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Avaya Inc. www.avaya.com 5.1
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Lucent Technologies Inc. www.lucent.com 5.0
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Qualcomm Incorporated www.qualcomm.com 4.6
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 Sector average 6.7
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Other overall findings for all surveyed firms include the following:

--Some 35 percent of firms did not respond consistently or did not respond at all to online inquiries resulting in 17 percent of all online inquiries being ignored.

--Looking at all inquiries made, including those ignored, 60 percent were answered within a day of being sent, considered to be the time limit that consumers will accept. Taken one level further and looking at the nature of the response, 33.6 percent were responded within the day and were considered helpful.

--Some 32 percent of firms are either unclear or do share data with outside third parties or business partners.

--Only 27 percent of firms provide a full explanation about what advantage cookies that are installed provide to the user and what data they hold.

--After personal data is collected, 17 percent of sites provide no means to "opt out" of future marketing campaigns.

--Only 33 percent of firms always use SSL or Https forms consistently to provide security when collecting personal data.

--Only 59% of the firms provide an FAQ, site search and a site map to assist the customer self serve.

About The Customer Respect Group

The Customer Respect Group is an international research and consulting firm that uses its Customer Respect Index (CRI(TM)) methodology to help companies improve how they treat their customers online. It provides leadership in the objective and scientific measurement of a customer's online experience. Many of the largest U.S. companies have already adopted the CRI methodology to improve online customer satisfaction and loyalty. The Customer Respect Group is headquartered in Boston. For additional information, visit www.customerrespect.com, call 617-378-3173 or email info@customerrespect.com.

All companies and products listed herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Business Wire
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Date:May 16, 2005
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