Consumers are fickle. How we feel about a retailer is constantly changing and often based on our last experience—especially if it was negative.
That could explain why customer satisfaction with Internet retailers dropped significantly last year, according to the just-released American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Satisfaction with online shopping slipped 4.9 percent to a benchmark of 78, the lowest score since 2001.
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It's no secret that a surge of last-minute online holiday shopping, combined with shipping delays caused by bad weather, created a lot of unhappy customers. Our expectations may be unrealistic—next-day delivery in the middle of a blizzard—but they still color our perception of the customer service we received.
"People expect a great experience when they shop online. This time it didn't happen and it became a splash of cold water in the face," said ACSI director David VanAmburg. "But I think this is more of a glitch or a blip rather than a long-term trend that there's something wrong with online retail."
ACSI data have consistently shown that online shopping is significantly more satisfying than going to a brick-and-mortar store in many ways. Customers say it's convenient, they like the wide selection of merchandise and they find the checkout and payment process to be easier.
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Amazon (88) is the top-rated online retailer in this survey, improving its score by 4 percent. Newegg (83) came in second. By contrast, eBay (80) dropped 4 percent and Overstock (79) fell 2 percent. Netflix (79) posted a sizeable gain of 5 percent.