If visitors to your Web site become annoyed, it is very easy for them to broadcast their irritation: They are already online! This is one of the obvious but frequently ignored findings revealed in a recent study of how companies treat their online customers.

A study conducted by the Customer Respect Group asked customers about issues of site usability, communication and trust, as delivered online. Outstanding site usability, including access for disabled users, put Intel at the top of the list.

Equally revealing were some of the comments made by respondents, who were detailed in their displeasure regarding unsolicited e-mails, in some cases after having already opted out of such marketing.

Providing a usable Web site and communicating directly with online customers in a trustworthy manner would seem to be straightforward tasks. Yet a study released in June 2006 by Forrester Research indicated that companies often think that the biggest obstacles to delivering such services are organizational and philosophical. For instance, more than twice as many firms surveyed said that getting alignment across organizations was a significant obstacle to improving the customer experience than mentioned the barrier presented by the need to design usable customer interfaces.

It is important to remember that delivering customer service online is already a compromise. The same Forrester study found that most US businesses think that phone representatives and retail branches are better at taking care of customers than Web sites, e-mail or IM/online chats. In fact, this makes it even more important to get the online experience right.