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Customer Satisfaction Rises for Amazon, Down for eBay, Others

A robust 2013 holiday shopping season where U.S. consumers spent $46.5 billion just from their desktop PCs according to comScore seems like cause for at least modest celebration. But various issues vexed consumers at times and ecommerce pros may have some serious word to do to recover from possible consumer dissatisfaction with online retail.

The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) reported a drop in how happy consumers were with online retail during the holiday season. While more traditional retailers enjoyed a third consecutive year of rising customer satisfaction, it traveled in the opposite direction for online sellers.

“A spate of last-minute holiday purchases online, combined with inclement weather, left some buyers disgruntled by delayed shipments,” says Claes Fornell, ACSI Chairman and founder. However, Fornell further noted how “a surge in shopping via mobile phones and tablets indicates that consumers are increasingly embracing the advantages of online commerce.”

ACSI attributed the drop in online customer satisfaction, measured at a benchmark of 78, mostly to smaller sites. Bigger retailers like Amazon and Newegg garnered benchmarks of 88 and 83 for themselves, but the online retail score of 78 is the lowest seen since 2001.

eBay trailed those two with a benchmark of 80, a four percent dip from 2012 yet above that overall internet retail benchmark of 78 percent. ACSI credited online retailers on several factors, particularly ease of checkout and payment, and variety and selection of merchandise, for satisfying customers.

The issue with inclement weather came late in the holiday shopping season when poor travel conditions caused major carriers UPS and FedEx to miss what were supposed to be guaranteed deliveries in parts of the United States right before Christmas.

Big firms like Amazon countered the fallout from dissatisfied customers by offering refunds on shipping costs as well as gift cards. ACSI suggested this was a successful tactic, as Amazon’s customer satisfaction increased.

For the small to medium sized businesses shouldering negativity from disappointed customers, it looks like they will need to engage in some effective marketing to overcome any lingering bad feelings. The most publicized complaints seen on news networks concerned those late express deliveries; ecommerce pros may want to reconsider their deadlines for guaranteed deliveries to avoid possible future bad weather complications.

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David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.