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Priceline Is Most Appealing Online Booking Site

Consumers respond well to naming their own price as online travel agency Priceline surges 8% to grab the lead in the tightly grouped Internet travel service industry. While there has been considerable consolidation among online booking sites, many continue to operate as separate brands. With an ACSI score of 81, Priceline tops the three big names under the Expedia umbrella despite smaller gains for Expedia-owned Travelocity (+4% to 78) and Orbitz (+3% to 77). Nearly lockstep with its other major brands, Expedia’s namesake booking site holds steady at 77.

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Smaller websites, grouped together as “all others,” tend to place at or near the top of the Internet travel industry, which makes Priceline’s ascendency in 2016 noteworthy. Nevertheless, the range of scores among all travel sites is typically quite narrow and the industry overall suffers from lack of differentiation. This year, the aggregate of smaller websites straddles the Expedia-Priceline divide with a score of 79 (+1%), perhaps reflecting the group’s conglomeration of brands that include Expedia’s Hotels.com and Priceline’s KAYAK.com and Booking.com.

The real competition for online travel agencies may well be the websites of hotels and airlines. According to 2016 ACSI data, hotels offer a better online experience than Internet travel agencies. Airline websites, meanwhile, are going head-to-head with Internet travel sites, matching the online industry’s overall customer satisfaction level.

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Both airlines and hotels are working harder than ever to boost loyalty and encourage direct booking. While online sites bring customers to these industries, the commissions they charge reduce net revenue per customer. Given the strong website satisfaction scores for both hotels and airlines, the convenience of one-stop shopping alone via online travel sites may not be enough to keep customers away from direct booking.

Travel Pulse: Priceline Is the Most Satisfying to Travelers, According to Study »

ACSI: Internet Travel Companies Outdo Airlines, Hotels »

Posted in Results.


Would Guests Prefer Starwood Under Marriott Umbrella?

The merger of Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts would create the world’s largest hotel operator by room count, but would customers win if the merger completes this summer as planned? Marriott has an undisputed record of above-average guest satisfaction in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, occupying the top tier among hotel chains for over a decade. In 2016, Marriott (ACSI score of 80) places a close second to Hilton (81), and its JW Marriott luxury offering leads among brands at 85.

Marriott’s latest move—adding Starwood’s 10 brands to its existing array of 19—could help stabilize the more uneven ACSI performance of Starwood. Or, the merger could put downward pressure on Marriott’s strong customer satisfaction given the pitfalls that often come with blending operations. ACSI data show that most mergers, at least in the short term, tend to depress customer satisfaction. Looking at Starwood’s track record in the ACSI, the company has at times rivaled Marriott for guest satisfaction, but more often Starwood has lagged behind by as much as 6 to 7 points.

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While most Marriott brands pass the threshold for superior customer satisfaction (score of 80 or higher), some show room for improvement—especially AC Hotels, which scores much lower at 74. By contrast, the lowest-rated Starwood brand, Sheraton at 78, outpaces AC Hotels by a significant margin. Americans may be less familiar with the AC name, however, as Marriott entered a joint venture to operate European-based AC Hotels in 2011. The brand came into the U.S. market in 2013, with the first AC Hotels by Marriott opening in late 2014.

As reported by Bloomberg, the Marriott-Starwood merger hit a bump this week, with a lawsuit by hotel owners in Chicago and New York regarding a possible violation of exclusivity rights.

Skift: Ranking the Big Hotel Brands and Loyalty Programs by Customer Satisfaction »

Travel Pulse: ACSI Report Finds Hotel Guest Satisfaction Down in 2016 »

Posted in Results.


Retail Sector Retreats to Long-Term Shopper Satisfaction Levels

ACSI’s February report on the retail sector shows customer satisfaction down 2.6% year over year for the 2015 holiday season, as consumers may be looking for more in their shopping experiences. Shopper satisfaction overall hit a high mark two years ago amid a post-recession economy where businesses were trying harder to please customers.

As recovery settles in, that honeymoon is over and five of six retail categories return to customer satisfaction levels that align with long-term ACSI averages. While most retailers show ACSI declines compared with 2014, consumers continue to prefer the online shopping experience.

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Chicago Tribune: Retail Survey: Customer Satisfaction Has Fallen Since Recession ‘Halo Period’ »

CNN Money: America’s Most Hated Retailer Is … »

Drug Store News: ACSI: Walgreens, CVS Tops in Customer Satisfaction »

Houston Chronicle: Customers Name the Best and Worst Grocery Stores in America »

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: Wegmans Rated Top Retailer in Customer Satisfaction »

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Web Retail: Selection and Checkout Speed Clicks With Customers

Brand names, ample selection, and quick payment makes Internet retailers hard to beat compared with brick-and-mortar stores. While the 2015 holiday shopping season proved tough on customer satisfaction across the entire retail sector, Web retailers overall remain pacesetters in the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

In February’s ACSI Retail report, Internet retail dips 2.4% year-over-year for 2015, but still leads the sector with an ACSI score of 80 on a 0-100 scale. At 77, specialty stores like pet suppliers, book sellers, or wholesale clubs give Web retail its biggest challenge, but department and discount stores, supermarkets, and drug stores all trail far behind with subpar customer satisfaction levels (73 to 74).

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The top draw of online shopping for customers is an easy and speedy purchase process (ACSI benchmark of 88). Meanwhile, shoppers lining up in traditional stores may be tapping their heels in frustration. Department and discount stores fare worst when it comes to checkout speed (70), followed by supermarkets (72). Specialty retailers are more efficient at ringing up sales (76), but still lag the Internet for checkout by a yawning 12 points. Web retail also has a strong advantage over brick-and-mortar when it comes to merchandise variety and selection, including brand names (84).

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Traditional stores, however, are closing the gap to Internet retail through the Web channel. Across the four brick-and-mortar categories, website satisfaction ranges from 78 to 81, which is comparable to the overall satisfaction score of 80 for Internet retail.

Call centers also represent a touch point where traditional stores can match or even beat e-tail. ACSI data show that the least satisfying aspect of the Web retail experience is customer support (77), which includes live chat, call centers, or help pages. Specialty retailers and drug stores offer a personal touch that exceeds Web retail by way of courteous and helpful staff and smoothly operating call centers (benchmarks ranging from 79 to 83).

On the other hand, department and discount stores fail to gain any advantage over online retail via either face-to-face customer service (77) or call centers (75). Moreover, department and discount stores overall provide the least satisfying customer experience among the four brick-and-mortar groups—a situation that does not bode well for an industry already under siege from the explosive growth of Web retail.

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ACSI Retail Report 2015 »

Internet Retailer: Amazon Again Leads in Shopper Satisfaction, Though Its Rating Slips »

Marketing Daily: Amid Declining Satisfaction, Amazon, Nordstrom And Trader Joe’s Stay Strong »

Posted in Results.


ACSI 2015: The Year in Review

The year 2015 marked customer satisfaction downturns across nearly every economic sector—from the post-holiday 2014 retail segment to U.S. federal government services. At the national level, overall U.S. customer satisfaction retreated across four quarters, adding to a string of consecutive declines that began in 2014.

According to ACSI results released from February to December 2015, 70% of 43 measured industries showed year-over-year satisfaction declines, with products or services from 59% of measured companies deemed less satisfying according to their own customers.

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In the public sector, citizens were less satisfied with services of the federal government during the year 2015, although the pace of decline slowed considerably compared with the two prior years.

Despite this pervasive weakening of consumer opinions of goods and services over the past year, the most recent satisfaction levels tracked by the ACSI are not dramatically different from pre-Great Recession data. It is possible that the years immediately following the recession represent a honeymoon period when companies went to greater lengths to attract and keep their customers—and when those customers may have been more willing to adjust their expectations.

Coming soon at www.theacsi.org: customer satisfaction results for the fourth quarter of 2015, including ACSI scores for more than 60 online and traditional retailers, based on data collected during the holiday shopping season.

ACSI Federal Government Report 2015 »

ACSI 2015 Year in Review: 
Slumping Customer Satisfaction Across Much of the U.S. Economy »

Investor’s Business Daily: Facebook Made Way More Users Happy in 2015: ASCI »

Money: These Companies Were the Biggest Customer Satisfaction Losers for 2015 »

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Consumers Weigh In: Choice Matters for Health Coverage

With new customers up one-third over last year, the health insurance industry continues to add policyholders at a rapid pace. According to the federal government, from the November start of enrollment through December 17, nearly six million people signed up for 2016 health insurance coverage on the federal exchanges. Within this group, 2.4 million were new customers.

The ongoing influx of newly insured Americans could put even more downward pressure on policyholder satisfaction next year. At present, customer satisfaction with health insurance has fallen to a 10-year low of 69 on the ACSI’s 0 to 100 scale. This places the industry among the bottom five in the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

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As the health insurance exchanges bring more people into the system, more opportunities open up for things to go wrong. This means that the impact of the Affordable Care Act on satisfaction is yet unclear. What is apparent, however, is that high premiums and slow claims processing do little to help consumer opinions of the industry.

There is a factor that leads to better outcomes for policyholder satisfaction: choice. ACSI data show that customers choosing individual plans are more satisfied on average (71) than those with group health insurance coverage (68). But even among group policyholders, choice plays a role. Those who are offered a choice of group plans rate their experience significantly better (70) than those with no choice (65).

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ACSI Finance and Insurance Report 2015 »

CBS MoneyWatch:  Guess Who Now Ranks With America’s Most Hated Industries »

The Fiscal Times: Americans Give Health Insurers a Big Thumbs Down »

MarketWatch: Health insurance satisfaction at a 10-Year Low (But Don’t Blame Obamacare) »

Posted in Results.


Consumers Appreciate Personal Touch of Community Banks

Regional and community banks offer a level of service that competes with the membership model of credit unions, according to recent results from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Credit unions have a history of being a satisfaction pacesetter, scoring at or near the top among 43 ACSI industries. In 2015, the industry may be experiencing growing pains from burgeoning membership as its ACSI score drops 4.7%.

Nevertheless, credit unions continue to receive some of the best customer experience benchmarks in the ACSI. At the same time, regional and community banks show that they are no slouches when it comes to well-regarded customer service. Across an array of customer experience elements, community banks earn scores that approach—or even exceed—credit union ratings.

The high point for both credit unions and community banks is courtesy and helpfulness of staff, scoring 90 and 89, respectively, on a scale of 0 to 100. Transaction speed for both is swift (89 and 87) and interest rates are competitive (80 and 78), especially when compared with national banks (69). In fact, nearly every aspect of the customer experience offered by community banks and credit unions is deemed excellent, including service variety, account changes and information, and touchpoints like call centers and websites.

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The two areas where community banks and credit unions fall behind nationals and super regionals are number and location of branches and ATMs. While this is not surprising given the local focus of smaller institutions, clearly their customer base is craving a bigger footprint for services. The personal touch, however, is winning out over location convenience—as demonstrated by the much lower overall customer satisfaction of national banks (72) versus community banks (80) and credit unions (81).

A recent BloombergBusiness article on the popularity of local over “big banks” with millennials discusses how fewer fees and a more “high-touch” approach is driving young bank customers away from national institutions and toward community banking. Even as many banking transactions move online, young customers also look for a one-on-one approach and are more likely to seek financial advice. ACSI data demonstrate that for millennials and non-millennials alike, banks and credit unions will gain favor with customers by focusing less on collecting fees and more on delivering excellence in their customer relationships over the long haul.

BankNews: Credit Unions Losing Edge Over Community Banks on Customer Satisfaction Index »

ACSI: Finance and Insurance Customer Satisfaction Slides as Cost Cutting, Fees and Premiums Pinch Customers »

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Growing Membership Strains Service for Credit Unions

Financial service providers and insurers join the trend of dwindling customer satisfaction that marks the year 2015. Credit unions, typically a high-scoring industry, retreat nearly 5% in ACSI as membership growth accelerates.
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ACSI Finance and Insurance Report 2015 »

Credit Union Times: Credit Union Member Satisfaction Hits Five-Year Low: ASCI »

CBS MoneyWatch: Guess Who Now Ranks With America’s Most Hated Industries »

Charlotte Business Journal: Wells Fargo Tops Customer-Satisfaction Ranking for Big Banks, BofA Continues to Lag »

The Fiscal Times: Americans Give Health Insurers a Big Thumbs Down »

Insurance Business America: Brokers Missing Opportunity to Bundle Policies »

MarketWatch: Health Insurance Satisfaction at a 10-Year Low (But Don’t Blame Obamacare) »

Winston-Salem Journal: BB&T, Wells Fargo Have Above Average Customer Satisfaction Scores »

Posted in Results.


PCs Decline as Consumers Cool Towards Tablets

Highlights of customer satisfaction trends for desktop, laptop, and tablet computers.

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ACSI Household Appliance and Electronics Report 2015 »

PC World: Survey: Users Love Their Desktops More Than Their Cheapo Tablets »

CIO: Consumers Increasingly Dissatisfied With PCs, Tablets »

TWICE: Consumers Aren’t Satisfied With Their PCs Or Their TVs »

NBCNews.com: Satisfaction With PCs of All Types Declines for Third Year in a Row »

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Autos: Ongoing Recalls Deflate Driver Satisfaction

With automobile recalls at record-high levels, it comes as no surprise that car buyer satisfaction declines for a third straight year, according to recent results from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). At the industry level, driver satisfaction falls 3.7% to 79 on ACSI’s 100-point scale in 2015, and nearly all nameplates lose ground in the eyes of their customers.

While consumers are seeing a rapid influx of technology innovation that is transforming the driving experience, recalls are becoming a more common occurrence for car owners. The ACSI automobile customer satisfaction survey asks all respondents to indicate whether or not their car has been the subject of a recall since the time of purchase, allowing researchers to investigate the impact of recalls on satisfaction.

In 2011, ACSI researchers used a pooled sample of 2010 and 2011 data to show that customers who experience recalls are significantly less satisfied with their cars than those who have not. One of the industry’s highest-profile recalls happened before and during that period—Japanese automaker Toyota’s massive, worldwide safety recall that started in 2009.

Recalls generally signal major quality defects, so it is not unexpected that they will depress satisfaction. But, as automobiles become more and more complex, there is the possibility that consumers could come to accept recalls as a normal part of car ownership. Nevertheless, ACSI data from the past three years confirm the 2011 findings. Customer satisfaction for owners who experience recalls is significantly lower than non-recall respondents, and the percentage of owners that say they have gone through a recall has increased substantially in 2015.

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The negative impact of recalls on automakers does not end with lower satisfaction. Because there is nearly a one-to-one relationship between satisfaction and customer loyalty for this industry, recalls create customers who are significantly more likely to defect to a competitor the next time they purchase a car. And because current customers are generally “cheaper” customers for automakers (requiring fewer acquisition costs), recalls have tangible and negative economic consequences for automakers. A pooled sample of 2013 to 2015 data for all nameplates shows that customers who experience recalls are significantly less likely to be repeat buyers.

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Satisfaction declines caused by recalls also have a host of indirect, negative consequences because satisfaction drives behaviors such as word-of-mouth, cross-selling, up-selling, brand image, and corporate reputation. Like many other nameplates, Volkswagen’s driver satisfaction tumbles 5% in 2015, but the drop is based on interviews that took place prior to the company’s well-publicized emissions scandal. Although diesel engines are less widely used in the United States than elsewhere around the globe, the revelation of emissions rigging by Volkswagen—along with the sheer number of vehicles that the company will now recall and refit—could be devastating on future satisfaction. Current customers may be even less likely to repurchase from Volkswagen if they perceive the company’s actions as a breach of trust.

ACSI Automobiles Report 2015 »

Associated Press: Survey: Recalls Make Americans Less Satisfied With Cars »

 Michigan Radio: Recalls, Cost, Taking Toll on Customer Satisfaction With Cars »

USA TODAY: Deluge of Recalls Dings Auto Customer Satisfaction as Lexus Earns ACSI’s Top Spot »

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