Customers are more satisfied online: ACSI

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Consumer satisfaction levels with e-commerce Web sites improved again last year, outpacing most other sectors of the economy in terms of satisfying customers, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Released Feb. 20 by the University of Michigan and ForeSee Results, the ACSI is based on a national survey of consumers who rank their experiences with more than 200 companies based on a 100-point scale. It is updated quarterly.

Overall, the score for the e-commerce industry last year rose to 80. E-commerce includes online retail, auction, brokerage and travel companies. The e-commerce sector reached its record high score of 80.8 in 2003. The national aggregate score for all industries across channels was 74.9.

The online retail score climbed 2.5 percent to 83. By comparison, satisfaction with the offline retail sector was 74.4. Amazon.com continues to receive a high rating, receiving an 87 for a second year. It continues its recovery from an almost 5 percent drop in 2004. Barnesandnoble.com's score rose 1 percent to 88, giving it the highest score in the online retail sector.

Customer satisfaction for online auctions remained at 78 for the second year in a row, with eBay maintaining its leadership position despite a 1 percent drop to 80.

Satisfaction with online financial services hit an all-time high of 78, climbing 2.6 percent. CharlesSchwab.com was the biggest gainer, with its score increasing 8 percent to 80, while E*Trade improved 4 percent to 74.

Two companies making their first appearance on the index were Fidelity, with a score of 80, and TD Ameritrade, with a score of 77.

The only online industry sector that saw its score slip was online travel, as competition from airline and hotel sites and travel search engines increased.

Overall, online travel's score dropped 1.3 percent to 76. Expedia dropped 1.3 percent to 78 and Travelocity dropped 1.3 percent to 74. The only company to show a gain was Orbitz, which saw its score rise 1.4 percent to 75.

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