Apple, Amazon Rank High in Online Customer Satisfaction Survey | Moneyland

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In an annual study tracking customer satisfaction ratings with the top 100 online retailers, perhaps the biggest takeaway is that Amazon is the world’s biggest e-retailer for a reason: It just plain makes customers happier than the competition.

In this year’s ForeSee E-Retail Satisfaction Index, awards for top satisfaction were named in various shopping categories, including apparel (L.L. Bean), computers and electronics (Apple), food and drug (Keurig), and more. Yet without a doubt, only one retailer can legitimately claim the overall crown.

“Amazon continues to set the standard for e-retailers,” the study reads. “Amazon’s score sets a record as the highest score ever attained by a retailer measured in this Index.”

The index uses a 0 to 100 scale, with scores based on four main factors: functionality, merchandise, content, and price. It’s difficult to get a handle on how, exactly, scores are tabulated, but an 80 or above is considered good. Overall, online shoppers aren’t any happier or more disappointed with e-retail this year: The average score has stood at 78 for three straight years.

Individual retailers, though, have demonstrated improvement. Netflix, which led all e-retailers in customer satisfaction two years ago with a score of 87, fell to 79 in late 2011 after a year of price hikes and cancelled subscriptions, only to rebound to 81 lately. Amazon, which netted last year’s highest score with an 86, registered an all-time high 89 this year.

What’s most impressive about Amazon is that it performs well across the spectrum of indexes and surveys such as the one recently published by ForeSee. According to one study released last summer, Amazon is tops for customer service. In the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which was released in February and incorporates online and brick-and-mortar stores alike, Amazon was named the best of the best.

These surveys also show that not only are customers happy with Amazon, online shopping in general is more satisfying than traditional shopping in physical stores. In the ACSI study, online retail clearly trumped brick-and-mortar retail in terms of customer satisfaction.

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Go Ahead, Smash Everything in the Room. It’s Therapy

Tough day at work? Family stressing you out? Come smash stuff at Dallas‘ one and only Anger Room.

We all have those days. You know, the ones where you want to take the nearest heavy object and hurl it at the nearest breakable one? Sadly, it’s not quite socially acceptable to send shards of plastic or glass flying around the room. And most of us don’t have a stockpile of things to smash to bits, nor the time or patience to deal with the cleanup afterwards. Enter a Texas entrepreneur to solve your anger problems, no psychiatrist required.

Donna Alexander is the founder of the aptly-named Anger Room, probably the only business in the world that begs you to break everything in inside it. Located in a Dallas strip mall, the Anger Room is just as you’d hope it would be: filled with old furniture and electronics collected from junkyards and public donations, arranged to look like an office, bedroom or kitchen. But everything here is expendable: go ahead, grab a chair and chuck it across the room. Throw a plant at the computer screen. Stomp on the telephone. Grab a baseball bat and show that glass lamp who’s boss.

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Customers are fully decked out in safety goggles and helmets to protect themselves, but such courtesy isn’t extended to the objects in the room. Anything inside the Anger Room is fair game to be smashed, to whatever heavy metal or angry rap soundtrack gets your blood pumping quickest. The graffiti on the wall reading “Beast Mode” should only serve to further inspire the your rage.

Alexander actually came up with the idea a more than a decade ago, but didn’t launch her first Anger Room until 2008, out of her garage. The idea as ABC News reports, hasn’t changed: at the time, friends would come over to take baseball bats to the old junk in the room. But when word caught on, the demand was too much to handle. “I had strangers showing up at my house,” Alexander said, “so I said, ‘I have to find a real legit place.’” Leer más “Go Ahead, Smash Everything in the Room. It’s Therapy”

What Makes a Virtual Office Work



It was not a smooth start for Heather Fitzpatrick when she opened the virtual doors of her marketing firm, MarketFitz, back in 1998. She wanted to build a staff of people who worked out of their own homes. It would encourage them, she figured, to leave their desks and go “connect with the community.”

But in those days, Fitzpatrick recalls, the technology available to help bind a geographically dispersed group — such as a phone system that provides everyone with the same three-digit exchange or a common internet domain for email addresses — was hard to come by, especially for a small firm. Meanwhile, potential clients wondered if MarketFitz was really a team. “We tried to assure people by talking about our how this was cutting edge,” she says. But even after the firm won some awards for the progressive arrangement, clients couldn’t quite wrap their heads around the idea. “I used to get a lot of questions like, ‘How do you know people are working?'” says Fitzpatrick, who eventually grew the business to around 100 employees before deciding to scale back and focus on market research. In retrospect, she says, “I wish we hadn’t talked about it as much because it compounded the problem. It made people question even more.”

Today, companies are less hesitant about highlighting their virtual virtues — but it took some 30 years for the “virtual office” to gain respectability, as both technology and conventional wisdom finally caught up to the concept. A whole host of web-based communications and project sharing tools have emerged to streamline the practical side of managing such an operation. And the economic benefits have become increasingly clear-cut: “You save money. Productivity goes up. And it’s easier to recruit people,” says management consultant Jack Nilles, who actually coined the term “telecommuting,” the predecessor to “virtual office,” in 1974.

But for all the advances in communications, consultants and business owners say that technology isn’t the hard part about building an effective virtual company. It cannot, after all, create a company culture, keep employees engaged and pulling in the same direction, or even ensure that employees are doing their job. Technology is not, in other words, a substitute for management. What’s more, traditional management techniques need to be adapted to a virtual office environment.

Choosing the Right Technology — Or None
One of the most important factors, says Gil Gordon, a telecommuting consultant based in Monmouth Junction, N.J., is knowing what communications technologies to use when — and when to avoid it altogether. The options range from conventional e-mail to online project sharing software to extremely lifelike video conferencing systems known as “telepresence.” But they shouldn’t be used interchangeably.The trick, says Gordon, is to pick the right medium for the message. If the conversation is straightforward — say a meeting to iron out the details of a product launch — then a telephone or web conference will suffice. But when the stakes are higher and emotions may come into play, he says, “there’s no substitute for getting people around the table.”

In fact, Gordon recommends to clients that virtual companies be systematic about scheduling real face time — a semi-annual meeting followed by a company picnic, say — to solidify both professional and personal ties between employees. Rick Galbreath, a human resources consultant who runs his seven-employee virtual company, Performance Growth Partners from his home in Bloomington, Illinois, agrees that “you have to schedule friendship,” so he plans getaways a couple times a year that are purely social, in addition to quarterly business gatherings.

Measuring Productivity From Afar
One of the biggest hurdles faced by managers of remote employees is a nagging worry that their employees aren’t working, or at least not working hard. The first step, of course, is to hire people who can thrive in an unstructured environment. Hiring managers have to judge from work history and preferences whether a prospective employee can be self-sufficient and self-motivating.

Then it’s a matter of setting clear expectations and systematically following up to reaffirm them. At Gurnet Consulting, an IT project management firm, founder Marty King believes the best way to monitor the productivity of his 30 employees, mostly scattered around New England, is to have them broadcast it. Employees post brief but regular updates on their work to Yammer, an internal social network, while project managers post regular status reports that are available for all to see. And once a week, a manager is tapped to present a webinar on his project to the whole consulting staff. “We’re really into enterprise social networking, and using these tools to really pull the collective intelligence of the office together,” King says.

Creating Corporate Culture — Without A Water Cooler
Gurnet also attempted to fill the function of the water cooler with Yammer, complete with profile pages, status updates and discussions. The network mixes the personal and the professional. “I’ve posted pictures from my 4th of July, and people post industry-related content that really helps the business,” says King. “If an employee has a challenge, they can post a question on it on the enterprise s network, and the whole group can work on it.”

Galbreath, the consultant who runs a virtual company, argues that virtual companies may actually have an advantage when it comes to measuring productivity. “In an office environment, we kid ourselves that someone looks busy working over there, but you don’t really know what they’re doing,” he says. “But when you’re at a distance, the conversations are much more candid about what you’re doing and what the result expectations are. That’s the only thing there is to talk about.”

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