The UK telecoms industry has less respect for the privacy of personal data compared to Canada or the US, according to a report released today by the Customer Respect Group (CRG).
The CRG evaluated 54 websites as a representative sample across the US, Canada and the UK as part of its 2007 Online Customer Respect study of the global telecoms industry.
Results are based on three criteria: ease of use, communication and trust. These look at how usable the site is for a wide range of users, how willing the company is to interact with the customer, and whether the site can be trusted with personal data.
While the overall results of UK companies was in line with global averages, the report showed that UK websites ask for more personal data than companies in other industries, and that the data is often unconnected to the request being made.
Of the 13 UK sites, 11 routinely share personal data with other internal groups, business partners or third parties without explicit permission. This compared poorly with the US, where only 40 per cent share in the same way.
However, UK telco sites are well ahead of those in North America regarding support for users with visual or mobility disabilities.
Some 85 per cent of UK sites use cascading style sheets to format pages, which is a requirement for screen readers, compared to just 38 per cent in the US and 25 per cent in Canada.
In terms of communications, the global industry does well. Just eight per cent of email inquiries were ignored entirely, much better than the overall average of 24 per cent.
Once again, UK firms are generally in line with global statistics, but the timing of responses tends to be slower compared with US and Canadian firms.
One area in which the UK is not keeping current is growth in the use of online chat as a step between a telephone call and an email. Twenty-five per cent of US telcos now use chat, up from five per cent a year ago. No UK sites employ online chat.
"The telecoms industry is in a state of flux and churn, and we see major changes disguised in the overall numbers," said Terry Golesworthy, president of the CRG.
"As companies reach across traditional business lines to gain new customers, we see a race to capture customer data to perform new campaigns.
"This results in some positive and negative aspects for the customer with the increased use of electronic marketing. Companies need to make sure they do not cross a line that might damage their overall brand reputations."
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