Customer Experience News & Trends

Where customer service shines — and where it sucks

In 2015, the customer experience across a few industries shined. Elsewhere, it sucked, according to new research.

Overall customer satisfaction dropped last year, with the exception of a few shining stars. That’s what The American Customer Satisfaction Index, which analyzes customer satisfaction across dozens of industries, found at the end of the year.

“By and large, the overall customer experience for goods and services purchased and consumed in the United States is getting worse,” said Claes Fornell, Chairman and founder of the ACSI. “There are exceptions, but the overall trend of deteriorating customer satisfaction encompasses nearly every industry and is holding consumer spending in check, forcing retailers into steeper or more extended discounts.”

The bright spots

Just five industries improved their customer satisfaction ratings in the past year — three of them being Internet-based. Internet retail jumped about 5% to 82 on the 100-point scale. One of the reasons this sector had a nice jump is big score improvements from smaller online retailers that are part of a brick-and-mortar store, researchers found — a sign that the online channel is a complement, not a threat, to traditional retail.

The other improving industries included social media, jumping to 74 and online travel services, going up to 78. Rounding out the improvements are airlines at 71 and household appliances at 81.

So what can all companies learn from the industries that improved customer satisfaction?

Try these two ideas:

1. Surprise and delight

JetBlue is at the top of the airline industry, garnering an 81-point rating. This is part of the reason: the People Officer. He’s been known to stand up in the middle of a flight and announce he had free tickets to anywhere the airline flies to those who want to play — can can win — trivia games.

Then he asks customers if they have any suggestions or concerns they’d like to share with JetBlue.

Have fun with and reward your customers. Then get their feedback.

2. Involve customers

Facebook had the biggest jump in customer satisfaction among companies that saw improvement, hitting 75 — a huge improvement over 2012 when it was about the most hated social media customer service provider with a score of 61. Why the change?

Part of it is because Facebook took its own advice. It got more involved with its customers — and let customers get involved with each other. On Facebook’s Help Community people can ask and answer questions about features. It gives customers access to answers with easy instructions:

  • Search first: Someone else may have already provided an answer to your question.
  • Give details: When you ask or answer a question, provide enough information for others to understand and help.
  • Be kind: Always be respectful of others. They’re here to help and get help, too.

The dark spots

Some industries didn’t fare so well. They saw a big dips in customer satisfaction — and most of them were in the communications sector. For instance, Comcast subscription service plunged 10% to 54 on the 100-point scale. Also falling? AT&T — to 65. Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable dropped almost 10% to 58 and 51 respectively.

So the takeaways from these darker spots in customer satisfaction are practices you want to avoid.

Instead you want to:

Keep front-liners informed

Customers are irked at bait-and-switch sales tactics that often happen in the communications industry, and Cox has been accused of it: Bring in new customers with low rates, then once the ink is barely dry on the contract, increase the rates.

Making it tough to reach a person when customers want to either quit the contract or just complain about the increase compounds the problem.

While front-line customer experience professionals might not influence how products and services are priced, you want to make sure they’re well-informed on all prices, why they’re at a certain level and how to find customers the right fit of service and price for themselves.

Keep front-liners happy

Dish network hasn’t had great customer service ratings in some time. At the root of poor customer satisfaction is often low employee satisfaction. One study found that Dish employees rated the company a 2.6 out of 5, which was one of the worst ratings of any major company.

The lesson here is there’s more than money to keeping employees happy. Dish pays fair wages, yet many aren’t happy. They need autonomy, too. If you provide enough continuing training, employees will know how and when to make good decisions and feel in control of their careers — a major job satisfaction factor.

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