How much time will you spend online today—to shop, bank, stay connected with friends, get the latest news or plan a trip?
More importantly, how much of that time will be pleasurable and how much will be aggravating and unproductive?
According to a new American Customer Satisfaction Survey (ACSI), most of us have a positive experience when we use the Web—78.2 points on a 100-point scale. That's almost 2 points higher than the overall satisfaction rate for all the companies and services we deal with throughout the year.
It found that credit unions (86), shipping companies (85), banks (85) and hotels (84) had the highest scores.
"These industries do an extremely good job of providing a satisfying experience because they know they must have websites that are easy to navigate and provide users with the information they're looking for," said David VanAmburg, ACSI's director.
With a rating of 78, Internet retailers were just below the national average (78.2) for all websites. Wireless telephone service and Internet travel (77), health insurance and Internet news (73), subscription TV services (72) and Internet service providers (70) also rated below average.
At the very bottom of the list: social media websites, with a score of 68.
The 2013 ACSI website satisfaction survey is based on more than 25,000 interviews that reflect user experiences with hundreds of companies in 33 industry categories. ACSI says it's the first time anyone has done such comprehensive research into how users feel about their online experiences.
Why did social media do so poorly? Many users said they felt inundated with advertising on social media sites. There was also significant concern expressed about privacy.
"It's the feeling that one is constantly challenged to protect the very information they put out for certain people to see, but not for others to see," VanAmburg told me.
The survey also shows that a good website cannot compensate for weaknesses in other areas of customer service.
For example, the airline industry got high marks for its websites (80), even though most passengers are not very happy with their flying experience. Airlines are one of ACSI's lowest-rated industries for customer satisfaction.
"A great airline website isn't going to fix problems with on-time arrivals, baggage problems, long lines to get on the plane or being crammed into seats like sardines," VanAmburg explained. "These issues are going to weigh much more heavily on customers at the end of the day as far as how they would rate their overall experience with the airline."