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High-Tech Industry Is Unresponsive To Online Customers

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The high-tech industry has conquered many technologies, but when it comes to online customers, e-mail isn't one of them, according to a study released Friday.

Fully 27 percent of e-mails sent to 38 of the largest high-tech companies were ignored, and only half were responded to within a day, according to the latest quarterly report by The Customer Respect Group. In addition, 40 percent of the responses were considered "less than very helpful."

The industry, however, improved in its overall score for online customer respect, earning a 6.8 in the second quarter, compared with a 6.0 in the fourth quarter of 2004, CRG said. Hewlett-Packard Co. scored the highest, followed in order by Xerox Corp., Microsoft Corp., Dell Inc. and Gateway Inc.

At the bottom were Siebel Systems Inc. and Toshiba America Inc., which scored 3.9 and 4.0, respectively. A score of 4.0 and below is considered "poor and badly lacking of in customer respect," the CRG said. HP and Xerox, on the other hand, scored 8.7 and 8.1 respectively. Scores of 8.0 and above are considered "excellent."

In the privacy category, the industry improved to 6.8 from its previous score of 6.4, primarily due to a large increase in privacy protections by the top performing companies. Some 10 firms scored "excellent" for privacy, compared with six in the last report.

Leading the pack on privacy were IBM, HP and Veritas Software Corp. At the bottom of the list was Siebel.

In term of sharing customers' personal data with third parties, however, the industry was average to all other industries surveyed by the CRG. Nearly a third of the companies are unclear on their policies or share data with other organizations.

"We were pleased to see an overall increase in the industry's (Customer Respect Index) scores since the last report," Terry Golesworthy, president of the CRG, said in a statement. "But we continue to be concerned that the high-tech industry, which we believe has the know-how to do even better, hasn't yet found the will."

The CRG's Customer Respect Index is based on interviews with a representative sample of the online adult population and an analysis of corporate websites.

By Antone Gonsalves.

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