Study faults online customer service in Europe

The quality of customer service provided by commercial and government websites in four European countries is 'disappointing,' according to the authors of a new study.

          The quality of customer service provided by commercial and government websites in four European countries is "disappointing," according to the authors of a new study.

          Only 12 of 202 sites studied in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the UK were rated as "very good," in a study carried out during November and December by the German consulting firm Mummert + Partner and the technical college Fachhochschule Münster.

          Websites were rated on a point system according to four criteria: construction and navigation, company and product information, advice and guidance, and value-added services.

          The company says that most other sites besides the best 12 offered "markedly worse" customer service. A third of sites rated did not even meet 40% of the required criteria.

          Banks and credit institutes scored among the best, accounting for five of the entrants on the study's "top 10" list. The researchers praised Switzerland's Credit Suisse Group, the UK's National Westminster Bank and Germany's Commerzbank for web offerings such as personalised investment advice, stock transactions via WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) on mobile phones, and real-time stock exchange data.

          Top honours went to German utility company Neckarwerke Stuttgart, which the study says offers all of the same customer service options, including installation orders, energy use analysis, and billing information, online as offline.

          Rated by nationality, German sites came in first, followed by Austrian, Swiss, and UK sites.

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