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Search Sites Edge Out Portals in Customer Satisfaction

Search Sites Edge Out Portals in Customer Satisfaction

Google's ability to satisfy customers has grown in leaps and bounds over the last year, according to the University of Michigan's latest American Customer Satisfaction Index survey. Google's rise in ratings, in turn, has helped the e-business industry as a whole climb 5.5 points on the survey's scale. Search engines, according to researchers, have done better at retaining customer loyalty than Web portals.

By Erika Morphy CRM Buyer ECT News Network
08/19/08 6:00 AM PT

It's rare to see Google command anything less than a large presence in just about any given e-business study these days, and the latest annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) from the University of Michigan is no exception: ACSI scores for e-business rose 5.5 percent to 79.3 on ACSI's 100-point scale. That jump can largely be attributed to Google's own 10 percent climb to a score of 86.

"Google continues to separate itself from the crowd not only in terms of market share but also in satisfaction," Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results, told CRM Buyer. ForeSee managed the survey for the university.

To put this rating into context, there have been only three service companies in the entire 14-year history of the ACSI that have topped a score of 86, and they were all online retailers: Amazon, Newegg, and BarnesandNoble.com. Furthermore, Google's 10 percent climb from last year is the second largest year-over-year increase ever recorded in the e-business survey, following Ask.com's 11 percent increase from 2002 to 2003.

Where this particular survey differentiates itself from other chroniclers of Google's fortunes is its explanation for at least some of the search engine's success: Customers' loyalties are shifting to the search engines -- and not portals.

Commodity News Sites

One can see that in the online news category, Freed said, in which no one provider was able to differentiate itself by more than a percentage point or two. "Readers aren't loyal to the news site, but will go wherever the search engine directs them," he said.

Besides cementing Google's position as a solid leader by a 3-to-1 margin, according to ASCI stats, this trend indicates a continuing decline of portals as a first destination for online users. Already, more people are using search engines than portals to access information on the Internet, Freed pointed out. "What we are seeing here is a solidifying of that trend."

Google has also been aided by setbacks among its competitors, which the survey also captured.

For instance, Yahoo enjoyed a brief customer satisfaction lead over Google in 2007, but this year dropped 3 percent to 77 as the company grappled with the departure of key managerial staff and Microsoft's attempted acquisition. Microsoft's MSN.com's satisfaction score, meanwhile, remains stagnant at 75.

Ask.com a Success Story

Interestingly, Ask.com appears to be the only search engine other than Google that can add market share when a competitor's portion falls. Of the available search market share that Yahoo and MSN lost from June 2007 to June 2008, Google won 87 percent, and Ask took 13 percent.

Ask.com dropped 1.3 percent to 74 in this year's survey. However, it has seen a 19 percent increase in customer satisfaction since the first year it was measured, ASCI found.


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