Online Buyers Guide Keeps Watchful Eye on Customer Service

Many August Internet surfers were happy to throw their cash into online purchases, but some were less happy with the results they got, according to a new Web site collecting data from online shoppers. Calling the outlook for this year’s holiday shopping season “a case of the good, the bad and the ugly,” e-BuyersGuide.com says shoppers want improved customer service from electronic merchants.

However, their current dissatisfaction will not stem the expected tide of sales, the online researcher says. Nearly 83 percent of shoppers surveyed in August on the e-BuyersGuide.com Web site said they plan to spend more than $100 (US$) online this holiday season. Of 420 survey respondents, 32 percent said they already shop online weekly, and 37 percent are not buying cheap trinkets — they spent more than $50 per item when they shopped online in August.

On the down side, however, 13 percent of the online shoppers surveyed last month said they will not return to the sites they shopped at. Ten percent complained the products they wanted were not in stock, and 9 percent criticized the sites’ overall customer service. Women and baby-boomers continue to dominate the online shopping ranks, e-BuyersGuide.com confirmed, with 60 percent between the ages of 35 and 54 and 58 percent women.

Customer Service Watchdog

e-BuyersGuide.com did not identify specific sites that won kudos or earned reproach, but the company’s Web site allows registered users to search for information and shoppers’ reviews of specific online retailers.

To ensure it continues to gather current feedback on shopping sites and Web surfing experiences, e-BuyersGuide.com requires each new member to fill in an online shopping survey when they register. The site uses periodic cash drawings to encourage existing members to keep submitting feedback on online merchants.

Visitors must register to gain access to most of the site’s information services, such as the company search feature, an events calendar and a links page. The calendar lists events such as the “Everywoman’s Money Conference,” which helps women learn how to make wise financial decisions. The links pages consist primarily of connections to state and federal attorney general offices, in case shoppers want to escalate their negative shopping experiences into full-fledged legal complaints.

e-BuyersGuide.com, based in Burlington, Massachesetts, was developed by founding investors Lindsay and Irwin Barkan “because of their frustration with online shopping trips,” the company says. It launched late last month as is funded by revenue from e-commerce and other companies, who can pay for access to the shopping data and customer feedback gathered on the site. The data comes solely from online shopper feedback, reflecting actual Internet shopping experiences.

e-BuyersGuide.com says it collects and provides the data to encourage companies to “establish and maintain the best standards for e-commerce transactions,” and the company plans to issue periodic public service announcements to identify “inaccurate and misleading information, including questionable practices exercised by e-commerce companies.”

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