Last year was a good one to be an e-retailer, according to a pair of reports that show all-time highs for both customer satisfaction and sales.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Annual E-Commerce report, e-retail stood out with a satisfaction score of 84 (on a scale of 100). Meanwhile, the Commerce Department released fourth quarter 2003 figures that showed U.S. retail sales over the Internet made up almost 2 percent ($17.23 billion) of total retail sales. In the third quarter of 2003, by comparison, online retail made up 1.5 percent of total retail sales.

Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee Results, a Web site satisfaction measurement company, says that customer satisfaction and revenue are directly related. “Satisfaction is going to drive loyalty, which is going to drive repeat business, which is going to drive profitability,” Freed says. “In the four years the ASCI has been measuring e-retail, satisfaction keeps going up. It’s definitely something the industry should be proud of.”

Customer satisfaction can mean many things, but Freed says at its most basic level, it means that a company “meets the needs and exceeds the expectations of its customers.” By that, and most other definitions, Amazon.com is e-retail’s champion. According to the ACSI report, Amazon.com earned the highest satisfaction score: 88. Barnesandnoble.com earned the second highest score, at 86. Other e-retailers averaged a score of 83. Freed says a score of 88 is exceptionally high. Anything in the 80-range is considered a good score.

Eventually, says Freed, the average scores for e-retail will drop or level off because consumer expectation will grow even higher.



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