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Online Customer Respect Study Rates How Large Furniture Companies Treat Consumers Online

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The Customer Respect Group, an international research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat their customers online, today released the results of its First Quarter 2005 Online Customer Respect Study of the largest Consumer Products firms. Overall, Nike did best among Apparel Firms (and best overall), while Van Heusen did worst. Steelcase topped the Furniture list, while Herman Miller Incorporated fared worst. Gillette scored highest among Household and Personal Products companies, while L'Oreal scored lowest. And Fortune Brands did best among Toys and Sporting Goods firms, while Mattell did worst. The study is the only one to bring objective measure to the analysis of corporate performance from an online customer's perspective. It assigns a Customer Respect Index (CRI™) rating to each company. The Customer Respect Index is a qualitative and quantitative in-depth analysis and independent measure of a customer's online experience when interacting with companies via the Internet. By interviewing a representative sample of the adult Internet population, and by analyzing and categorizing more than 2000 corporate Web sites across a spectrum of industries in detail, The Customer Respect Group has determined the attributes that combine to create the entire online customer experience. These attributes have been grouped together and measured as indicators of Simplicity (ease of navigation), Responsiveness (quick and helpful responses to inquiries), Privacy (respect for the privacy of the customer), Attitude (customer-focus of site), Transparency (open and honest policies) and Principles (values and respects customer data). Combined they measure a company's overall Customer Respect. Summary Results/Comparisons Although a direct comparison is difficult because of the inclusion of industry-specific questions, the average CRI based on 595 surveys of corporate Web sites in various industries throughout 2004 was 5.9. Meanwhile, the consumer products firms in this study scored 6.3. La-Z-Boy (www.lazboy.com) improved its score by 1.5 since the last report and Newell Rubbermaid (www.rubbermaid.com) increased its score by 1.8. These increases in score were largely due to an improved level of responsiveness. Fortune Brands (www.titleist.com) and Levi Strauss (www.levi.com) dropped the most points, primarily due to significantly lower scores in the Responsiveness scale. The Consumer Products companies obtained a very poor average score of 4.0 in the Responsiveness index. By comparison, the firms surveyed in the Largest 100 Companies 2004 report averaged 4.4. That is reflected in the fact that 37 percent of firms didn't respond to all online inquiries submitted. And of those that did respond, only about half (51 percent) responded within what users consider an acceptable timeframe (one day). Some 10 percent of the Consumer Products companies share customers' data with business partners without seeking permission and 7 percent share data with unrelated outside parties. It is positive, however, that 55 percent of companies don't share personal data without explicit consent, while 22 percent use data only for internal marketing purposes. It was difficult to discern what four percent do with collected data. "This sector represents some of the best know brands in the world," said Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group. "These companies spend millions on the reputation of their brands. The Web site has now become the front door for many consumers to research companies and their products so it is vital now that the online visitor is fully respected. Users should be able to locate site information easily, be assured that their own information isn't shared without permission and that inquiries are answered in a prompt and comprehensive manner. Companies that ignore the online visitor can seriously affect any carefully and expensively established brand reputation." The report conveys in great detail improvement opportunities for each company. The sector's First Quarter 2005 rankings are as follows: Apparel Sector CRI Nike www.niketown.com 7.9 Liz Claiborne www.lizclaiborne.com 7.7 Polo Ralph Lauren www.polo.com 7.4 Timberland www.timberland.com 7.2 Reebok International www.reebok.com 6.8 Nine West (Jones Apparel) www.ninewest.com 6.1 Levi (Levi Strauss) www.levi.com 5.9 The North Face (VF Corp) www.thenorthface.com 4.5 Van Heusen (Phillips-Van Heusen) www.vanheusen.com 3.0 Sector average 6.3 Furniture Sector CRI Steelcase www.steelcase.com 7.0 Furniture Brands International www.thomasville.com 6.4 KraftMaid (Masco) www.kraftmaid.com 6.2 La-Z-Boy www.lazboy.com 6.2 Herman Miller Incorporated www.hermanmiller.com 5.8 Sector average 6.3 Household & Personal Products Sector CRI Gillette www.gillette.com 7.7 Avon Products www.avon.com 7.3 Estée Lauder www.esteelauder.com 7.0 Newell Rubbermaid www.rubbermaid.com 6.9 Energizer Holdings www.energizer.com 6.8 PartyLite Worldwide (Blyth) www.partylite.com 6.5 Procter & Gamble www.pg.com 6.3 Unilever www.unilever.com 6.1 Kimberly-Clark www.huggies.com 5.8 Revlon www.revlon.com 5.7 Colgate-Palmolive www.colgate.com 5.1 L'Oreal www.loreal.com 3.9 Sector average 6.3 Toys & Sporting Goods Sector CRI Fortune Brands (Titleist) www.titleist.com 6.6 Hasbro www.hasbro.com 6.0 Mattel www.mattel.com 5.5 Sector average 6.0 Other overall findings for all surveyed firms include the following: -Surveyed firms receive the best overall rating (CRI: 7.3) for Transparency and the worst (CRI: 4.0) for Responsiveness. -Some 35 percent of all sector firms use Autoresponder technology, in which emails are automatically sent to users to confirm the receipt of their inquiry and let them know when they should expect a response. -Some 37 percent of firms did not respond consistently or did not respond at all to online inquiries resulting in nearly 30 percent of all online inquiries being ignored. - Of the inquiries that were responded to, about half (51 percent) responded within what users consider an acceptable timeframe (one day). Another 34 percent responded within two days and 15 percent responded more than two days later. - Looking at all inquiries made, including those ignored, only 36 percent were answered within a day of being sent. -97 percent of sector firms now have privacy policies on their sites explaining how customers' personal data is being used. Only four percent need to be more explicit about how they use personal data, 76 percent do not collect data or use collected data only for internal purposes, 10 percent share data with business partners and seven percent share data with unrelated businesses without permission from users. -Some 86 percent of surveyed firms use cookie technology. Of these, 10 percent provide a full explanation about what advantage they provide the user and what data they hold. -After personal data is collected, 10 percent of sites provide no means to "opt out" of future marketing campaigns. Some 48 percent provide users an online means to "opt in" to future marketing communications. And 35 percent provide online means to "opt out." -Just eight percent of firms always use SSL or Https forms to provide security when collecting personal data. -All companies researched for this report need to make changes to their sites in order to ensure that they are reaching both disabled and non-disabled site visitors alike. How to Order Each company and industry is researched and analyzed twice annually. Subscribers to Customer Respect Online receive: -Industry-specific key findings, analysis and editorials for one-or-more subscribed industry reports -Dynamic league tables for CRI and each CRI sub-index scoring for all companies -CRI report cards for each company covered in that report -Detailed own-company confidential report including actionable recommendations -Best practice guidelines, practical customer respect examples -Analysis tools for head-to-head and multi-company comparisons with drill-down to sub-indices and individual criteria detail -Annual Cross Industry Reports including the Fortune 100 CRI Report Companies can obtain additional information by visiting the Web site, www.CustomerRespect.com, calling 617-378-3173 or emailing info@customerrespect.com. About The Customer Respect Group The Customer Respect Group is an international research and consulting firm that uses its Customer Respect Index (CRI™) methodology to help companies improve how they treat their customers online. It provides leadership in the objective and scientific measurement of a customer's online experience. Many of the largest U.S. companies have already adopted the CRI methodology to improve online customer satisfaction and loyalty. The Customer Respect Group is headquartered in Boston. For additional information, visit www.customerrespect.com.

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