The Checkout

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" 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
of 77.

By  |  August 15, 2006; 9:00 AM ET Consumer News
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I use 3 of the products mentioned in your article for the same basic reason. They are tools that work when I need them. I can customize them easily for my use. The 3 are AOL, Honda and Google.

Posted by: | August 15, 2006 2:27 PM

Comparing Google againts Yahoo is like comparing apples to oranges. Google is a search engine and Yahoo is a portal. That's why "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."

from Wikipedia: "Web portals are sites on the World Wide Web that typically provide personalized capabilities to their visitors. They are designed to use distributed applications, different numbers and types of middleware and hardware to provide services from a number of different sources." That's why Yahoo's home page is so much different from Google's. People can use Yahoo for a variety of functions, including search. Therefore comparing a site that offer many functions against another site that just provides one is not a far comparison.

Yahoo's customer satisfaction probably went down as AOL changed it's business model to be more like Yahoo. Some Yahoo customers probably defected over to AOL.

Posted by: ABH | August 15, 2006 4:03 PM

If you have ever tried to deal with Yahoo customer service, the question you would be asking is "how did Yahoo manage to fool 76% of their users?". I use computers all day, almost every day. Every once in awhile, I have emailed questions to google. Invariably I have gotten a response. While building a laptop earlier this year, I got locked out of my yahoo account. Reset password consistently states that my new password has been mailed to my email. I can verify that they have my username. I can verify my email. I cannot reset my password. I have sent 30-40 emails to them asking them to reset the password. I have CALLED the customer no-service asking what documentation they needed other than name, address, DOB, SSN, Mother's maiden name, Father's middle name, grade school, city of birth, name of Pets. I have offered to FAX my driver's license or any other ID they needed. Their online reps were just rude - the claim to have no contact phone numbers, fax numbers or email addresses for their own security team. After only a few hours on hold over several phone calls, I only managed to get the same security reset email address that was not working on the website. Needless to say, no emails to the website, were ever answered with anything but the same canned responses.

I have spent hours researching on the web for back routes to contact Yahoo security or initiate a Yahoo password change. All I can say is that there are a lot of people out there that are as angry as I am.

I am not stupid. I know that I can just pretend to be a new user and get a new ID. But I am an old time user, have a unique name that I also (business and personal) use on amazon, ebay, google, etc. I do not want a new name, I would just like to be able to submit whatever documentation to whomever is capable of changing the ID.

Only a 4% decrease? Give it time.

Posted by: phall | August 16, 2006 10:52 AM

I switched from Yahoo to Google because of all of the errors Yahoo gives it's patrons. I can't even log into my email account. I've done searches on the net and it seems Yahoo bans IPs who take up too much bandwidth. That is what's hurting Yahoo. They are turning on their users.

Posted by: JSM | August 19, 2006 3:10 AM

I have the same issue (password reset) for the last three weeks. Yahoo neither resets the password nor cancels my account. I have signedup with the petition at

Hopefully this will help me.

Posted by: Yahoo Victim | September 7, 2006 10:38 PM

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