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After two-year dip, Google customer satisfaction scores roar back

Annual U. of Michigan survey shows Yahoo is likely hurt by bitter battle with Microsoft

By Heather Havenstein
August 19, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - After enduring a two-year dip in customer satisfaction scores — and even being bested by rival Yahoo Inc. last year — Google Inc. came roaring back in 2008 to score the highest customer satisfaction marks ever recorded in the annual University of Michigan American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) on e-business Web sites.

Google, whose customer satisfaction score dipped almost 4% to a 78 on the 100-point ACSI scale last year, climbed more than 10% this year to score an 86 in the latest report, set for release today. That score is the highest ever recorded in the e-business survey, which measures user satisfaction with Internet portals, search engines and news sites, the university said.

"[Google] had a tremendous increase this year," noted Claes Fornell, director of the ACSI survey at the university. "The company seems to have an uncanny ability to understand its users and read the market right. They come out with so many new products [that] it's just phenomenal.

"They provide customers with more, and for most of the stuff you don't pay," Fornell added. "It's sort of a wining proposition no matter how they do it. The more content Google provides, the higher the likelihood that their customers will be more satisfied."

Propelled by Google's gain, customer satisfaction in the overall e-business sector climbed by 6% to an ACSI score of 79, though Yahoo's score dropped 3% to 77 this year and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN.com satisfaction score came in at 75, the same as last year's.

Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results, noted that customer satisfaction is about one's perception of his experience with a product, not the performance of the product itself. Therefore, Microsoft's protracted battle to take over Yahoo likely affected Yahoo's scores adversely this year.

ForeSee is an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based online customer satisfaction measurement company and a sponsor of the study.

"All of the talk that Yahoo and Microsoft [cannot] do search on their own is not helping either of them in terms of a consumer's perspective," Freed added.

He noted that Yahoo's bump in the previous year's survey was partly due to a well-received redesign of the company's search site. After that survey, consumers probably would have expected similar improvements at other Yahoo properties. The latest results show that any changes likely did not meet those expectations, he said.

"[Yahoo] put a great fresh coat of paint on the house, but when you opened the door and went inside, there was very little change," Freed added. "If Yahoo makes very little changes, they seem to get penalized. Google gets rewarded."

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