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.

Credit Unions And SunTrust Lead Banks In Customer Experience

Forrester’s 2010 Customer Experience Index (CxPi) ranks 133 firms across 14 industries. I recently published the bank analysis which examines the 13 banks in the CxPi. Here are the overall results:

As a group, the banks were in the middle of the pack of industries with an “okay” average rating of 66%. But banks had the largest drop of any industry, down five percentage points from the 2008 CxPi. Here are some insights from looking at the banking results:

  • The best bank customer experience. Credit unions and SunTrust Bank up well above the other 11 banks on the list.
  • The worst bank customer experience. At the bottom of the list, three banks ended up with “very poor” ratings: Washington Mutual, Bank of America, and Capital One.
  • Most banks declined. Of the 11 banks that were also ranked in 2008, only three of them improved: SunTrust Bank, Wachovia, and U.S. Bancorp. Going in the other direction, Bank of America, Washington Mutual, and Wells Fargo had double-digit declines.
  • Capital One and Bank Of America and Citibank aren’t enjoyable. The CxPi has three underlying components: 1) meeting needs, 2) being easy to work with, and 3) enjoyability. Three banks tied for the bottom of the “enjoyability” ratings: Bank of America, Capital One, and Citibank.

The bottom line: Banks headed in the wrong direction in 2009

The Best And Worst Of Cross-Channel Design

We just completed a pretty extensive evaluation of the cross channel experiences of the following 16 large companies:

  • Airlines: American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, United Air Lines
  • Banks: Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wachovia, Wells Fargo
  • Department stores: JC Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Sears
  • Mp3 manufacturers: Apple, Creative, iRiver, Sony

The research used Forrester’s Cross-Channel Review methodology (which is a form of an expert reveiw) to grade the experiences across 57 criteria. The analysis looked at interactions via the Web, email, IVR, phone agent, as well as cross-channel transitions.

Here are some of the findings from the research:

  • None of the 16 companies received a passing score [+57 or higher].
  • Airlines received the highest average score [-8] and MP3 manufacturers the lowest [-29].
  • Delta received the highest score and iRiver received the lowest score.
  • There were 4 criteria that all of the companies failed:
    • “Is text legible?” (Web Site)
    • “Can customers get a confirmation of their phone conversation in another channel?” (Phone Agent)
    • “Can the user complete her goals in all required channels?” (Channel Transition)
    • “Can the user control how he interacts with the company?” (Channel Transition)
  • Results differed across the channels we evaluated:
    • Web Site: Delta was best; Sony was worst
    • IVR: American Airlines was best; iRiver, JC Penney, Southwest Airlines were worst
    • Phone agents: American Airlines was best; JC Penney was worst
    • Email: Sears, Creative were best; Southwest Airlines, Apple, iRiver were worst
    • Channel transitions: Macy’s was best; JPMorgan Chase, American Airlines were worst

I need to give a shout out to the Adele Sage, Vidya Drego, and Andrew McInnes who did most of the hard work on the research.

The bottom line: It’s not all bad news; firms that make improvements can really differentiate themselves.

A Look Back At My First Year Of Blogging

1st Year Aniversary For Customer Experience Matters

Today is a big day. It’s exactly one year after my first post “Lessons Learned From 1,001 Web Site Reviews.”

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been doing this for a whole year. Or as the song from Rent goes, for five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes. But my measurement is not in daylight, sunsets, midnights, or cups of coffee. It’s in blog posts, 184 of them!

While blogging takes a ton of time (I’m constantly looking for interesting topics and drafting posts), it’s been a great experience. Why? Because of you! Readership continues to grow and this blog now has more than 10,000 visitors per month. So I want to say thank you to everyone who has been reading, linking to, writing about, and passing along my blog.

In honor of the 12 months of blogging, I’ve picked out 12 of my favorite posts (in no particular order):

  • Experience-Based Differentiation. This is the core idea which drives my research; it also  won the best research award at Forrester. Experience-Based Differentiation, or EBD as I fondly call it, is based on three principles: Obsess about customer needs, reinforce the brand with every interaction, and treat customer experience as a competency. This remains a powerful blueprint for customer experience excellence. If you’re interested in customer experience (who isn’t?!?), then you may want to use the EBD self-test as a starting point. You can also find many other posts about EBD on this blog.
  • My Manifesto: Great Customer Experience Is Free. This post summarizes my perspective on customer experience; it’s a lot like the quality problems of the 1980s. While customer experience is not an easy situation to deal with, it can DEFINITELY be improved with a systematic effort; it just takes discipline (see EBD above). There was also a follow-on to this post called Great Customer Experience Is Free, Part II.
  • Don’t Let Profits Replace Purpose. Companies need to make profits, but here’s the dilemma: if they just focus on making profits, then they lose sight of what makes them special. Firms that lack a strong raison d’être have a hard time aligning the efforts of their employees. In a related post, I discussed how Firms Need Some Soul Searching.
  • The Holy Grail: A Link Between Customer Experience And Loyalty. I’ve been hoping to do this for a while: use data to provide the connection between customer experience and loyalty. And I finally did it. My analysis shows a high degree of correlation across the 9 industries that I examined, with the the strongest linkage for banks. That finding fits nicely with an earlier post which said that banks need to prepare for customer experience wars.
  • Trend Watch 2008 Wrap-Up. I really enjoyed writing a series of posts over the New Years break that examined trends published in The Economist, The McKinsey Quarterly, Advertising Age, Business Week, and Trendswatch.com. While I discussed 52 trends across all of the posts, this wrap-up looked at 14 that covered 4 areas: Consumer needs, online opportunities, required skills, and strategy & culture. 
  • Learning From The Good Fortune Advice Of Others. Fortune Magazine published advice from 25 famous people, and I commented on 8 of them that I really liked. There was great advice from big names like HP’s CEO Mark Hurd, Disney’s CEO Bob Iger, and Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally. But my favorite person on the list is Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of Pepsico (who I found out about in a Time Magazine article). Her advice: “Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent.”  
  • Discussing Zappos’ Culture With Tony Hsieh. As a researcher, I get to interview a lot of people. But my discussion with Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos was really memorable. It started a few minutes before our call when Tony twittered that he was waking up early (7:00 AM on Memorial Day) and needed a Red Bull before he spoke with me. Tony was great and I’ve become an even bigger fan of Zappos after the call. I also wrotr about another CEO that really understands customer experience, Wachovia’s Ken Thompson.
  • JetBlue’s “Happy Jetting” Is More Than Empty Promises. After a series of posts that looked at companies trying to change their customer experience through advertising efforts (JP Morgan Chase, Circuit City, and John Hancock) it was great to see that JetBlue was engaging its employees in its Happy Jetting efforts. I also wrote about how Ford is starting to view employees as potential brand ambassadors
  • Forrester’s 2007 Customer Experience Rankings. We used responses from nearly 5,000 consumers to rate the customer experience of 112 US firms. Our customer experience index (CxPi) examined three areas:meeting customer needs, being easy to work with, and being enjoyable. The three organizations with the highest CxPi were Costco, Borders, and Barnes & Nobles. The bottom three: Charter Communications, Medicaid, and Cablevision.  
  • Amex CEO Gains Insights From Napoleon. Kenneth Chenault, Amex CEO, used a quote from Napoleon that I really liked: “The role of the leader is to define reality and give hope.” This gave me an opportunity to discuss key leadership attributes: Deal with the reality of the world, engage your employees, provide a clear vision, and maintain a sense of purpose. While I’m discussing quotes, I really liked this one from Mackey McDonald, Chairman of VF Corp: “We realized we didn’t have to come up with brilliant ideas – we needed brilliant ways of executing good ideas.” 
  • Mashup: Halloween + Red Sox + CxP. This was a unique opportunity for me to combine three of my favorite things: my family, Red Sox, and customer experience. We had a great interaction with Jason Varitek on Halloween that ended up with my kids getting his autograph. You can see where he signed my son’s World Series ticket in this post. In another mashup of my interests, I my posted about how The Colorado Rockies Embraces Its Guests.
  • The Best Of CxP Matters: Volume #1Volume #2, and Volume #3. It’s amazing how quickly time (and many blog posts) just flies by. That’s why I’ve been writing “The Best Of Customer Experience Matters” to summarize every 50 posts; they also give me a reason to reflect on what I’ve written. So I decided to bundle all three of these as one of my favorites. 

In case you’re interested, here are the 10 posts that have been read the most:

  1. Experience-Based Differentiation
  2. My Manifesto: Great Customer Experience is free
  3. Forrester’s 2007 Customer Experience Rankings
  4. USAA: A Positive Example Of Customer Experience
  5. Trend Watch #5: Trendwatch.com “8 Important consumer trends for 2008”
  6. Webkinz: An example of a disruptive customer experience strategy
  7. Five Disruptive Customer Experience Strategies
  8. Are you listening to the voice of the customer?
  9. Apple’s Truly Genius Service
  10. Trend Watch #4: Business Week “Innovation Predictions 2008″

The bottom line: If you’d like to celebrate this anniversary, send a link to this blog to five of your friends.

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