Barnes & Noble, Kohl’s, and Marriott Top Customer Service Ratings

In a new report called Rating Customer Service Experiences, 2010, I analyzed how 4,600+ US consumers rated their customer service experiences with 92 large companies across 14 industries. Led by Barnes & Noble, Kohl’s, and Marriott, 24 companies received a Net Satisfaction Score* of 80% or higher.

At the other end of the spectrum, 10 firms had Net Satisfaction Scores below 50%: Charter Communications, Comcast, Washington Mutual, United Healthcare, Aetna, Citigroup, AOL, HSBC, Bank of America, and Capital One.

The absolute scores tell only a part of the story. We also compared the customer service rating for each company with the average for its industry. It turns out that credit unions, Kaiser, and Apple led 25 firms that were five or more percentage points above their peers.

At the other end of the spectrum, 11 firms fell more than 10 percentage points below their industry average: Washington Mutual, Charter Communications, Bank of America, Citigroup, HSBC, United Healthcare, JP Morgan Chase, Aetna, Capital One, United Airlines, and Office Depot.

I also examined the ratings given by different generations of consumers. In 10 of the 14 industries, Seniors were the most satisfied with customer service. For nine of the industries, Gen Y were the least satisfied.

*Net Satisfaction Score: We asked consumers to rate their customer service experiences on a 5-point satisfaction scale. To create the Net Satisfaction Score, we took the percentage of consumers who gave the company a “4” or “5” and subtracted the percentage of consumers that gave the company a “1” or “2.”

The bottom line: Focus on customer service in 2010.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

13 Responses to Barnes & Noble, Kohl’s, and Marriott Top Customer Service Ratings

  1. Jeff says:

    Curious why you deviated from a proven methodology like NPS and created NSS instead?

  2. Hi Bruce,

    What are your thoughts on the generally lower sat scores across Gen Y? Maybe it’s Gen D: Generation Dissatisfied?


  3. Bruce Temkin says:

    Jeff: I didn’t view this as a deviation from Net Promoter Score (NPS) at all; this analysis is just a different thing. It uses a “net scoring” calculation like NPS, but I’ve used that type of analysis long before NPS and on many other things as well.

    This is a satisfaction question, which actually is an effective type of question for one level of Voice Of The Customer feedback that I call “Interaction Monitoring.” NPS, on the other hand, is more appropriate for what I call “Relationship Tracking.”

    Companies need a portfolio of measurements. While the NPS has been promoted as “The Ultimate Question,” every company that I work with on NPS uses it as part of an overall VoC program — not as the one and only question they ask customers.

    I also have an upcoming piece of research that is very similar to this one that looks at consumers’ likelihood to recommend 133 companies. Based on a 5-point scale (instead of the NPS 11-point scale), I calculated a Net Recommendation score.

  4. Bruce Temkin says:

    Scott: I like your “generation D” label, although I’m not sure if it holds. I haven’t yet done the research to identify the underlying reason for the low scores. There could be many reasons for their lower scores like higher (unmet) expectations, general propensity to give lower scores, processes at companies not tailored to their needs, etc. Interestingly, I’ve also found a lot of dissatisfaction in Younger Boomers across much of my research. In this study, they were the least satisfied with customer service when it came to banks, credit card providers, health plans, and PC manufacturers.

  5. You’re onto something with with higher and unmet expectations. Very interesting. Thanks for the quick reply.

  6. Hi Bruce, it is interesting but not un-expected that 16 of your 19 firms with Top Customer Rating are in retail…hmmm. Retail is what I deem a very efficient market place for the consumer… in other words it is transparant and easiery for the consumer to ascertain value and semingly most important recenty, affordability. Additionally retail is now focusing on the lifetime value of a customer.

    Banks have forgotten about the lifetime value of a customer and focus only on the current transaction and are now motiveated by the profit incentive offered by the Fed in making money on the spread between the almost zero percent cost of money and investing zero percent in safe securities.

    Now if retailers were able to get into banking and insurance… hmmm…


  7. Krassi Genov says:


    I found your observations on the generational gap quite interesting – could it be that younger generations live and breathe technology and are easily annoyed by a slow agent on the phone or a confusing support site? Many younger simply people have an information overload resulting in very little patience and short attentions span. They’d rather tweet about a support issue, than deal with customer service. I’d expect that companies that manage to harness this power will only rise in your rankings.

    On a very different note, not sure if anyone read this but this article sure stirred a lot of emotions:

  8. TelcoBoy says:

    It would be really interesting to know if asked “what companies are most like Apple to you” if customers results would place Apple in an obvious cluster relating to PC manufacturer, e.g.

    Apple vs MSFT (OS)
    Apple vs Nokia / Google (Mobile handsets)
    Apple vs Sony (media players)
    Apple vs Dell (PC manufacturer)
    Apple vs Netflix (Movies on Demand)

    Some of these companies have such a diverse set of possible customer experience touchpoints. However, in some cases (e.g. Apple) the value of table 2 is very dependent on industry classification

  9. scott says:

    yeahhhhhhhhhhh lets start a wave of switching acoount to local banks… it would be geat for loall business and jobs

  10. Pingback: Customer Service Is The Worst Touchpoint « Customer Experience Matters

  11. Pingback: How USAA Does Surveys and What We Can Learn | Deliver Bliss - a portal to remarkable customer experiences

  12. Shane says:


    You should check out how “well” ranked your #1 customer service spot (Barnes & Noble) is at the customer service board. Barnes & Noble is a tyrant and a perfect example of what big business thinks they can get away with. 183 (and counting) negative comments and 9 positive. Really, this is the #1 spot? You’re not getting a cut off the top are you?! Once again a prime example of irresponsible reporting.

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