Google may be No. 1 in terms of overall usage of its search engines, based on a number of recent surveys. However, it appears to be falling short in one very important, non-tech metric: customer satisfaction.
For the first time, Yahoo has overtaken Google to claim the top spot in this area, according to the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) report on e-business Web sites. Yahoo’s customer satisfaction score of 79 on the ACSI’s 100-point scale represents a nearly 4 percent increase this year, while Google’s 78 reflects a 3.7 percent slip. It’s Google’s second consecutive yearly decline.
Ask.com, with a score of 75, up from 71 in 2006, posted this year’s biggest increase, 5.6 percent. AOL suffered the biggest decline — down more than 9 percent to 67. MSN, also at 75, is up only one point this year.
Other than the Ask.com’s rather surprising score — the Web site has had a major redesign, which usually means glitches, user drop-off and other such growing pains — little else has changed in this space, as all of the other major sites remain within a couple of points of each other in the 72 to 74 range.
The survey also showed that customer satisfaction with the e-business category overall slipped for the first time this year by more than one point to 75.2. That slip, which can be attributed to Google’s and AOL’s falling scores, is lower than the ACSI national average across all industries, 75.3, and the latest ACSI average score for e-commerce companies, 80.
Goliath vs. Goliath?
Indeed, the jockeying between Yahoo and Google — specifically, Google’s stumble — is the greatest source of fascination in these metrics, if only because the search engine giant has heretofore appeared invulnerable to assault by its competitors.
“Last year, Google had a 5 point advantage over Yahoo,” Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results, which sponsors the ACSI e-business report, told CRM Buyer. “This year, Yahoo has one point over Google. That is an amazing turnaround.”
Customers are not as aware of the continual improvements Google introduces into its ever-growing family of products, Freed believes. In fact, most customers are not likely to be aware of the company’s expanding portfolio.
“The average customer does not see the work Google puts into developing other applications,” he said. “Most still associate Google with search, which is seen as the same as five years ago.”
Customers expect services to continually improve, he noted. “It is what they expect — and Yahoo has, in their view, continued to improve its search functionality while Google has not.”
Search engines would also do well not to mimic AOL’s actions, Freed commented. “AOL took a huge hit — it is down 9.5 percentage points. At one time they owned this space — around 2000 — and they just did not take care of their customers.”
AOL has since tried to rehabilitate the company, he noted — although there are still plenty of stories circulating about disgruntled customers unable to get AOL to stop charging a monthly fee when they try to leave.
“Both AOL and Google brought down the aggregate scores in this space,” Freed said. “Hopefully, they and other sites will heed the warning of consumers.”