Customers Happier With Google Than Yahoo
When it comes to keeping online users happy, simplicity and constancy are better than clutter and revisions, particularly when those changes don't necessarily improve anything.
That, in a nutshell, is the conclusion of latest quarterly American Customer Satisfaction Index from the University of Michigan's Index being released today. And that conclusion helps explain why Google has tightened its hold as the leading online site, while Yahoo has seen a dramatic drop in customer satisfaction, said Larry Freed, president of ForeSee Results, an online customer-satisfaction company that sponsors the index.
For the first time since 2002, Yahoo saw its customer satisfaction rating drop--and significantly, too--from 80 last year (out of a total score of 100) to 76 this year. Google's score also dropped, but only from 82 to 81. (Both are still above the overall national customer satisfaction rate for all companies: 74.4)
"For the first time, we've seen Yahoo take a significant step backward in meeting customer needs," Freed said. "Consumers seem to be siding with Google's approach."
What's that approach? Even as Google has enhanced its services, it has "retained a consistent positioning and image through the years," the report says, by focusing primarily on its search capabilities. The home page "is still basically a stark white screen with a search box. ... Perhaps because its 'face' hasn't changed much since Google's inception, Google hasn't suffered what we term a 'relaunch effect' where customer satisfaction suffers as changes" are made to a Web site.
Yahoo, on the other hand, may have experienced that effect, the survey concluded. "It made changes to its Web site, but it didn't improve things," Freed said. "It had a nicer look and feel but it didn't solve any navigation or function problems." What's more, it is probably giving consumers too many choices. "Yahoo is trying to be everything to everyone, a strategy that is being met with mixed success," the survey says. "While choice is good, it can also be confusing. The sharp decline in Yahoo's customer satisfaction score this year seems to show that Yahoo may be offering more options than its users need, or at the very least, throwing them all at us at once." The company "needs to figure out the optimal balance between enough and too much."
While Yahoo has seen a large drop in customer satisfaction, AOL has seen the opposite effect, as it score grew to 74 from 71 last year. "AOL used to be near death in terms of satisfied customers, Freed said, with a score of 59 in 2002, "clearly the lowest of any online entity we've seen." But AOL has posted steady increases over recent years, partly because so many unhappy customers dropped out that its core users were smaller in number--and more importantly, more loyal. But Freed thinks there's more to it: "It's also done an excellent job in redesigning aol.com" and making its content more accessible over the Web. "A lot of people think it's too late for AOL. I don't think it is; I think there's plenty of time left" for it to be a big player in the e-business category, perhaps even second behind Google, Freed said.
In other findings, the survey found that customer satisfaction with automobile companies reached an all-time high this quarter, up to 81 points on ASCI's 100 point scale. Toyota remains the industry leader, with a score of 87, followed closely by Honda, Lexus and Buick. The lowest-ranked companies: Ford, Jeep and Kia with scores
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