Why customers have no real beef with Five Guys

Customers got beef with burger joints.

According to our Restaurant Study 2020-2021, burger chains hold four of the bottom five spots among fast food restaurants. Jack in the Box (unchanged), Sonic (down 1%), and Wendy’s (down 4%) all have ACSI scores of 73, while McDonald’s sits at the bottom of the industry, stable at 70.

Although you might think this spells trouble for the patty pioneers, a closer look reveals that the burger experience isn’t all bad.

In its ACSI debut, Five Guys finishes near the top of the limited-service restaurant industry with a score of 78. Let’s see how this newcomer managed to outshine its fellow burger makers in its first appearance.

Five Guys offers 5-star experience with a mouth-watering burger

Five Guys outperforms the other burger chains in most customer experience benchmarks.

For starters, the fast casual burger chain has the most helpful and courteous staff. Food orders are most accurate at Five Guys, and it boasts superior restaurant layout and cleanliness.

Five Guys also stands out for store speed, reliability of mobile app, and likely the most appealing, food quality. We’re not saying it’s the best burger you’ll ever have, but some customers legitimately feel that way.

In truth, it’s easy to get behind the Five Guys way of doing burgers: The patties are fresh and made to order (no frozen patties here), there are free unlimited toppings (15 different toppings really, but that’s still pretty good), and the fries are crispy, tasty, fresh (obviously), and you get them by the boatload.

This burger joint may be in the fast food category, but make no mistake, this thing is gourmet.

Identifying the secret sauce

Although Five Guys has quickly established itself as the burger place to beat, some aspects of the customer experience do allow room for improvement.

Customers agree, for instance, that Five Guys’ mobile app, while reliable, lacks the quality of other fast food restaurants. Beverage quality and variety fall behind those of its burger brethren as well.

Five Guys also doesn’t offer as wide a variety of food. However, it’s difficult to hold this last point against them. They’re known for their burgers, and they consistently deliver excellent burgers.

Certainly, there’s something to be said for not spreading yourself out too thin. Chick-fil-A has led the fast food industry – and all restaurants – for seven straight years, and its bread and butter is chicken. Specializing seems to be working out well for them so far.

Other traditional burger places have attempted to branch out. Wendy’s launched a breakfast menu, and the brand is near the bottom in food quality and the fast food category overall (73 ACSI score). Burger King is expanding its palate with the new Ch’King sandwich, and the jury’s still out on that one. But the restaurant’s ACSI score of 76 places it below the industry average.

The lackluster performance of burger joints in this year’s Restaurant Study could be a reflection of the sheer volume of quick-service restaurants customers can now choose from. Diners have either tired of burgers altogether, or if they’re ordering one, their expectations for quality are high.

And this is where Five Guys performs well. So, while the company could choose to improve the quality of its mobile app, it will likely have no bearing on its burgers (which is all that really matters). As long as those patties remain fresh and delicious, customers should stay plenty satisfied.

Restaurant Study reveal: Customers favor full-service restaurants over fast food chains

Following a tumultuous year, the restaurant segment is getting the stabilization it desperately needs.

Hiring is up as , and sales are on the rise. Customer satisfaction with full-service restaurants and limited-service restaurants — which was suffering leading into the pandemic (down 2.5% and 1.3%, respectively) — is no longer in free fall. 

Overall, customer satisfaction with the Accommodation and Food Services sector slips just 0.4% to a score of 77.6 (out of 100), according to our latest Restaurant Study 2020-2021

Fast food restaurants remain steady with an ACSI score of 78, but in a surprising twist, full-service establishments shine brightest, up 1.3% to 80. 

How did the latter, while less positioned to handle the increased demand on takeout, delivery, and contactless dining options, rise to the occasion? Let’s find out.

It starts with the customer experience

From a customer-experience standpoint, full-service restaurants pretty much feast on the competition, surpassing the limited-service category in almost every ACSI customer experience benchmark.

According to customers, full-service establishments beat fast food chains in food quality (86 to 82), restaurant layout and cleanliness (86 to 82), and staff courtesy and helpfulness (85 to 82). The former significantly outpaces the latter in terms of food variety (84 to 79).  

It doesn’t stop there.

Customers feel that orders are more accurate (88 to 84) at full-service restaurants, and these spots have better beverage quality (84 to 81) and a greater variety of beverages (82 to 78).

In the all-important mobile app space, full-service restaurants hold a slight edge as well. While both industries share an ACSI score of 82 for reliability, full service wins for quality 85 to 83.

10 fast food brands stumble

For the seventh straight year, Chick-fil-A leads the limited-service industry – and all restaurants – with an ACSI score of 83. However, customer satisfaction diminishes 1% year over year.

This trend is common across the industry – and on a larger scale. 

Of the 10 fast food restaurants that undergo satisfaction slips, half experience at least 3% declines.

Arby’s and Dunkin’ both slide 3% to 77. Chipotle Mexican Grill has the same score but tumbles 4%. Wendy’s sits near the bottom of the industry, dropping 4% to an ACSI score of 73. Subway takes the largest hit, tumbling 5% to 75.

Among full-service establishments, only one has a similar slide – Red Lobster falls 3% to 77. On the flip side, two full-service restaurants have strong customer satisfaction gains: Red Robin (up 3% to 78) and Chili’s (up 3% to 77).

Full service for the win

At a time when full-service restaurants could’ve been in serious trouble, they gave customers plenty of reasons to be satisfied. 

The full-service industry surpassed the limited-service industry in food quality (and variety), beverage quality (and variety), order accuracy, store layout and cleanliness, staff courtesy, and mobile app quality. 

Fast food restaurants are known for their speed but have fallen behind in this race. Let’s see if they can use that same sense of urgency to improve satisfaction and catch up to their full-service counterparts next time around.

Netflix and no chill: Why streaming services have a satisfaction problem

How did you entertain yourself during the past 18 months? 

Perhaps you read books you’d been previously putting off. Maybe you mastered countless board games like Monopoly, Battleship, and Catan. You may have even picked up a new hobby like knitting or calligraphy.

More likely, you plopped yourself down in your favorite spot, got nice and cozy, and streamed one TV show (or movie) after another. And you wouldn’t be alone.  

Thirty-nine percent of Americans added streaming subscription services during COVID-19, per an Adweek-Moring Consult poll. Additionally, 36% revealed they subscribe to more services now than they did before the pandemic. 

From a financial standpoint, companies like Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Hulu, and Disney have millions of reasons (and dollars) to feel good about their situation. If only consumers were as satisfied with what these brands were putting down.

Another (un)satisfied streaming customer

Customer satisfaction with video streaming slides 2.6% to an ACSI score of 74, according to our Telecommunications Study 2020-2021. Although customers still favor streaming to the other telecom industries, the lead is dwindling. And the streamers only have themselves to blame.

Customers feel the quality of original programming (down 3% to 74) and variety of TV shows by category (down 3% to 74) are both worse than the previous year. They believe both current season (down 3% to 71) and past season TV shows (down 3% to 73) aren’t as available as they once were, and they’re less thrilled with the number of TV shows (down 4% to 73). It doesn’t stop there.

Consumers believe the number (down 3% to 73) and variety of movies by category (down 4% to 73) were better last year. Worse yet, the availability of new movie titles leaves much to be desired, down 1% to an ACSI score of 70.

Disney+? More like Disney-minus

These flailing figures are an industry-wide issue. This year, seven streaming services post losses of 3% or more.

While Disney+ leads the category for the second straight year, satisfaction diminishes 3% to an ACSI score of 78. According to customers, the streamer is pretty much worse across the board. Aside from being less reliable, it’s middle of the road in terms of number – and variety – of TV shows and variety of films.

Along with Disney+, Hulu (75), Amazon Prime Video (74), CBS All Access (73), and Apple TV+ (72) all suffer 3% declines. 

Both Netflix and Apple TV, however, take the biggest licks of all. The former falls 4% to a score of 75, while the latter sinks 4% to 74. 

Netflix’s sudden fall from favor is probably the most shocking. Despite having the largest subscriber base, customers are clearly no longer as enthralled with the service as they once were, as its ACSI score is much closer to the industry average than the top of the charts.

What’s the solution to the streaming woes?

When pandemic lockdowns were in full effect, it was easy to turn to streaming services as a form of escape. Yet, after a while, screen fatigue set in and what was once a worthwhile activity quickly became a means of frustration.

Now that summer is here and pandemic restrictions are being lifted, people are going outside again and leaving streaming habits behind. While this might be good for our mental well-being, it couldn’t have come at a worse time for streaming services.

Still, the notion that “content is king” doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, as evidenced by Amazon’s recent $8.45 billion purchase of MGM. Perhaps this consumer (summer) break from screen time is exactly what streaming services need. It’ll give them a chance to regroup, rebuild their content libraries, and give people the fresh content they’ve been clamoring for. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. 

Either way, get your popcorn ready. This is a story you won’t want to miss.

 

If your employees aren’t happy, how can you expect your customers to be?

How do we keep our customers satisfied? 

It’s a question that all businesses ask, but many struggle to answer. 

Anyone who’s searching for a silver bullet or a magic pill to improve customer satisfaction may as well start over. Because it’s only a matter of time before they realize that a single solution doesn’t exist.  

Customer satisfaction depends on a lot of factors: customer service and the customer experience; the price of a particular product; the variety of goods a business offers; even the cleanliness of a store. The list goes on and on, and evolves over time – mobile apps, quality, and speed are three up-and-coming drivers of customer satisfaction that businesses would be wise to remember.

Yet, for all the steps organizations take to try to increase customer satisfaction, there’s one area that’s more important than many realize: employee satisfaction.

The link between employee and customer satisfaction is real

There is a genuine connection between employee and customer satisfaction. 

Happy employees tend to provide superior service to customers. Better service leads to happier customers. Happy customers are more inclined to become repeat shoppers, which means more money in the company’s pockets. 

This results in “… higher stock prices, bigger returns on investment, and happier shareholders. And (the smart companies) can turn that capital around to give employees bigger benefits, which in turn makes them, and their customers, even happier.”

Unfortunately, if happy employees equate to happy customers, the opposite is also true. Dissatisfied employees likely won’t offer top-notch service, creating unhappy customers who may take their business elsewhere. 

The proof is in the pudding

Sure, this concept makes sense, but where’s the proof it’s more just than a theory? Glad you asked.

A Glassdoor study set out to answer the following question: “Can companies help to achieve high customer satisfaction by investing in employees and ensuring that those who deliver goods and services are themselves satisfied with their jobs?”

Using Glassdoor employee reviews and American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) ratings, the study found a “strong statistical link” between employee and customer satisfaction. According to the study, every one-star improvement in an organization’s Glassdoor rating correlated to a 1.3-point (out of 100) increase in customer satisfaction scores. 

 

Happier workers enhance an organization’s ability to offer better customer satisfaction. This was especially evident for retail, restaurants, travel, and other industries with routine interaction between worker and customer. At the time, Southwest and Hilton topped the list in the travel space, while Costco and Trader Joe’s stood out among retailers as having both high employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. 

Currently, Southwest shares the number one customer satisfaction spot among airlines, while Hilton takes the lead outright among hotels, per our latest Travel Report. Meanwhile, Costco outpaces all department and discount stores in customer satisfaction for a fifth straight year with a score of 81 (out of 100), according to our most recent Retail Consumer and Shipping Report. Trader Joe’s also leads supermarkets and the entire retail sector with a score of 84.

Satisfying your employees will pay off

What does it take to make employees happier? 

Is it the money? Costco, Amazon, Wayfair, and more all increased minimum wage to over $15 an hour. What about focusing on employees’ mental well-being, cultivating a better work-life balance, or offering better perks like unlimited PTO?

Each of these elements is sure to entice employees. But just as one thing isn’t going to suddenly spark improved customer satisfaction, the same is likely true for employee satisfaction. 

What’s important is that, as you think of all the ways to improve customer satisfaction, you remember to keep your employees happy. Because if you don’t, it won’t be good for anyone. 

Global shipping crisis and customer satisfaction: Why businesses may struggle to keep customers happy

The Ever Given, the 220-ton cargo ship that can carry 20,000 containers, is no longer wedged in the Suez Canal. That’s the good news. The bad news? The six-day blockage of one of the world’s largest container vessels could have long-lasting ramifications.

According to Northeastern University professor of political science Stephen Flynn, “The disruption of a week of this size is going to continue to have cascading effects … it’s got to be at least 60 days before things get sorted out and appear to be a bit back to normal.” 

Ports will see added congestion, and ships will be thrown off their usual schedule. And worse, supply chains, which had already been heavily disrupted since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic from a worldwide container shortage, will be further compromised. Eventually, the consumer is going to bear the brunt of this dilemma in the form of higher prices. 

When this inevitably comes to fruition, customers, who have dealt with their fair share of goods shortages over the past year, are not going to be enthusiastic about the additional strain on their wallets.

It starts with freight costs

The reason consumers will be facing rising costs of goods stems from increased freight costs. 

Over 80% of global trade is transported by sea. And supply chain disruptions have made this process much more expensive

In June 2020, the average cost to ship a 40-foot container was $1,040. On March 1, 2021, that number soared to $4,570, per S&P Global Platts. This caused container shipping costs of U.S. imports to jump from $2 billion in February 2020 to $5.2 billion in February 2021, according to S&P Global Panjiva.

“At the moment a lot of these costs are within the supply chains,” said Chris Rogers, a research analyst at S&P Global Panjiva. “I think it’s inevitable that it will be passed on to consumers — it’s just going to take time.” 

Supply shortages already a problem

Peloton has experienced the double-edged sword of high demand. While customers crave the bike and exercise equipment, they get equally enraged when these products are delayed, or worse, don’t show up at all. According to a New York Times report, Peloton customer service can’t help much of the time.

But Peloton isn’t the only retailer feeling the supply chain squeeze.

Despite leading department and discount stores in customer satisfaction for the fifth straight year with a score of 81 (out of 100), per the most recent Retail and Consumer Shipping Report, Costco is having difficulty stocking imported cheese and patio furniture. Its customer satisfaction has also decreased 2% year over year.

Meanwhile, Dollar Tree, which also experienced slumping satisfaction, down 4% to 74, reveals its supply chains have “been stressed.” According to CEO Gary Philbin, the retailer has “$1 billion in the pipeline somewhere,” and more products are on their way. Foot Locker’s inventory was down nearly 24% at the end of Q4 because of port congestion. 

The list goes on and on.

The biggest loser in all this is going to be the consumer, who may be forced to pay more for high-demand products on short supply.

What can businesses do to soften the blow to their customers?

Manufactured goods like food items and appliances typically score higher for customer satisfaction than service-oriented businesses, like banks, airlines, or subscription TV. But delivery delays and rising prices threaten that favorable position. 

The last thing companies need in these trying times is for customer satisfaction to wane amid frustration with supply chain issues. The question is what can businesses do to soften the blow?

Peloton’s answer is to invest $100 million into air cargo in the hopes of speeding up delivery. Said Peloton CEO John Foley

“On average, in the coming months, we will be incurring a transportation and delivery cost that is over ten times our usual cost per Bike and Tread, including, in many cases, shipping them by air instead of by sea. We are making this investment because we are as frustrated as you are that you don’t have your Peloton Bike or Tread yet.”

While this investment might not be enough to curb the current crisis, it’s a step in the right direction. Customers want to believe their voices are being heard and businesses are taking steps to fix the problem. Organizations that fail to even address the issue are going to struggle to maintain the trust of their customers. This could cost them now and in the future.

Consumers should expect to see the price of goods go up. But businesses – especially retailers – have a responsibility to try to lessen the effect. Those that do will, hopefully, earn the patience, respect, and good will of their customers. Those that don’t, well, your brand reputation will be like that of the Ever Given in the Suez Canal: in need of a rescue.

Flying during COVID-19: How the airline industry keeps passenger satisfaction soaring

COVID-19 had the airline industry reaching for the panic button.

According to a Franklin Templeton-Gallup poll conducted in 2020, over half (52%) of Americans who flew at least once in 2019 admitted they were now uncomfortable flying because of the pandemic. Sadly, passenger and revenue numbers soon reflected this growing desire to remain grounded. 

International passenger travel plummeted 60% in 2020, per The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and U.S. airlines’ net losses are projected to be more than $35 billion.  

Yet, despite the turbulent times, there is one area where the industry soars: customer satisfaction.

In our most recent Travel Report, passenger satisfaction with airlines has never been stronger, climbing 1.3% to its best ACSI score ever at 76 (out of 100). It is the only travel industry to experience customer satisfaction gains years over year.

How are airlines managing to score satisfaction points with passengers amidst these tumultuous times? Let’s find out.

You can’t put a price on comfort

Seat comfort has the lowest score among customer experience benchmarks with an ACSI mark of 73. Yet, it’s also the only aspect of airline travel that improved during the pandemic, rising to an all-time industry high.

Per ACSI data, seat comfort reviews were even better at the beginning of COVID-19, as the whole industry incorporated the practice of blocking middle seats during flights.  

Delta, which ties Southwest as the industry leader after jumping 3% to an all-time high of 79, put forth a thorough plan to prioritize social distancing – a plan that also included eliminating middle seat usage. And while other airlines began letting passengers buy middle seats, Delta is keeping the policy in place and limiting capacity on all flights through April 30, 2021.

Passengers have become less satisfied since airlines started filling the middle seats again. However, seat comfort has been steadily improving over the last five years, so at least airlines are making a concerted effort to address this common pain point.

Putting safety first

The fear of contracting COVID-19 kept many frequent passengers out of the sky. To ease these concerns, the “Big Four” – American Airlines, United, Delta, and Southwest – took strong safety measures, starting with “cleanliness.”

American Airlines partnered with Purell and Vanderbilt University Medical Center to start its Clean Commitment. United teamed up with Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic to forge its CleanPlus program. Delta launched CareStandard with the help of the Mayo Clinic and the Lysol manufacturers. The Southwest Promise features a partnership between the airline and the Stanford School of Medicine, as well as the use of high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.

The airline industry also sponsored a study from Harvard’s School of Public Health. The report showed that the risk of getting COVID-19 from flying was much lower than shopping or eating out at a restaurant.

Although customer satisfaction with cabin and bathroom cleanliness drops slightly to an ACSI score of 78, the airlines’ attempts to make their passengers feel safe and secure most likely kept this decline minimal.

Not business as usual for the leisure crew

Before COVID-19, 32% of business passengers complained to the airline. Yet, they were relatively satisfied, with an ACSI score of 79. During the pandemic, however, that changed. 

The percentage of complaining business passengers rose to 38%, but their satisfaction declined 10% to 71. This was not the case with leisure travelers.

Pre-pandemic, just 11% of these individuals complained, but they were far less satisfied at 65. Fast forward a year, and while 17% complained to the airline, their satisfaction level was much higher, up 6% to a score of 69. 

It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly changed to make these passengers more content. Maybe they’re showing kindness to the airline, or perhaps, the airlines are grateful that people are traveling the skies again and want to express their appreciation. Whatever the reason, a satisfied customer is good for everyone.

Gradual improvement for airlines over time continues 

While airlines have taken specific steps to improve comfort and safety during the pandemic, the industry overall has been making positive strides over the last few years.

Since 2018, customer satisfaction with airlines has risen 4.1% to reach an all-time industry high. So, it’s not as if things weren’t heading in the right direction.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic presented unforeseeable challenges that threw the industry for a loop. And, with strict travel restrictions in the beginning and consumers remaining hesitant to fly once they were loosened, airlines could’ve easily buckled under the pressure. But they didn’t.

Since April 2020, the number of Americans passing through TSA checkpoints has slowly grown. Of course, while more people are traveling, airlines can’t get too cozy. They must continue making safety a top priority, while also maintaining the level of comfort passengers have grown accustomed to. If not, we could be looking at less friendly skies in the future.

Retail case study: What Nike and Hobby Lobby are doing right, and what Ace Hardware and Williams-Sonoma must learn about satisfying customers

The latest wave of customer dissatisfaction has crashed into the Retail sector – and most retailers were unable to get out of the way.

According to our latest Retail and Consumer Shipping Report, customer satisfaction backslides 2.3% to an ACSI score of 75.5 (out of 100) – the sector’s lowest mark since 2015. None of the six retail industries improve, and 86% of the retailers we measure experience worse satisfaction year over year.

But it isn’t all bad news.

This year, we measured 14 new specialty retail stores, and two of them – Nike and Hobby Lobby – debuted among the sector’s top overall performers with scores of 80. Others, like Ace Hardware (74) and Williams-Sonoma (73), not so much.

How did they succeed while other specialty retail newcomers struggled? To answer that, let’s take a closer look at what Nike and Hobby Lobby did right and where Ace Hardware and Williams Sonoma missed the mark.

Nike keeps it ‘clean’ 

At a time when social distancing is paramount, customers are paying close attention to areas like store cleanliness and layout. And they feel Nike shines.

But it doesn’t stop there. Nike also impresses with its store speed, staff courtesy, and mobile app.

Hobby Lobby is winning customers over with ‘sales’

Like Nike, customers appreciate the cleanliness and layout of Hobby Lobby. But where the arts and crafts store really distinguishes itself is through discounts.

The least satisfying facet of the specialty retail shopping experience is the frequency of sales and promotions, with an ACSI score of 73. Hobby Lobby, however, has no such trouble. In fact, it’s thriving.

Ace isn’t the place for satisfaction

Ace Hardware doesn’t have the lowest score in the industry, but according to customers, it’s close.

The hardware retailer struggles across most of the customer experience. Per ACSI data, it could stand to improve in everything from store cleanliness and layout, to merchandise variety, to mobile app performance.

Williams-Sonoma has work to do

In its debut appearance, Williams-Sonoma outperformed just one specialty retailer – last place GameStop, which fell 4% to a score of 72.

According to the data, customers feel that price is a major concern for the company. But the dissatisfaction doesn’t stop there.

Customers feel store locations are inconvenient, store hours could be better, and staff could be more courteous.

Will Retail rebound in 2021?

2020 was a tough year for the Retail sector, but many are hopeful that things will rebound in 2021.

Newcomers like Ace Hardware and Williams-Sonoma have a long road ahead of them to get in the good graces of their customers. However, it’s not impossible. If anything, observing companies like Nike and Hobby Lobby that debut near the top of the specialty retail industry should provide a useful blueprint to follow.

Of course, we should also point out that Hobby Lobby recently got rid of its 40% off coupon, which could affect its scores moving forward. But if you’re in the same boat as Ace Hardware and Williams-Sonoma, you have several changes you can make to improve customer satisfaction.

Were citizens satisfied in the Trump administration’s final year?

Satisfaction with the U.S. federal government is less than ideal – again.

Following a 1.2% decline last year, citizen satisfaction stumbles once more, dropping 4.4% to an ACSI score of 65.1 (out of 100), per our latest Federal Government Report. Citizen satisfaction has now fallen for the third straight year, sinking to its lowest score in five years.

Any way you slice it, this has been a weird year for the government. While it’s fair to wonder if this drop is a direct admonishment of the Trump administration – the run-up to the November elections was combative and the post-election period was a powder keg that exploded in a most unforeseen way – it’s important to remember what this report actually looks at.

So, let’s get into it.

What’s driving citizen satisfaction?

We can’t stress this enough: Our Federal Government Report looks at the satisfaction of individuals who’ve had direct contact and dealings with the government.

It’s not about political affiliation. It’s not about the administration. It’s not about Congress. It’s about the government officials who provide day-to-day services.

We measure four primary drivers of citizen satisfaction – process, information, customer service, and website – and they reflect the most pertinent performance areas of government agencies and services. This year, none improved.

The efficiency and ease of government processes dropped 3% to 66, the ease of accessing and clarity of information backpedaled 3% to 69, and the perceptions of government website quality plummeted 5% to 71. In the end, only the customer service score stood firm, unchanged at 74 – the highest of the four drivers.

As the report notes: “These changes reflect a broad and deep erosion of the quality of federal government services experienced by citizens in 2020.”

Did the pandemic impact federal government satisfaction?

It’s very likely the pandemic impacted citizen satisfaction in the federal government.

How much? It’s hard to say. However, just under 1,300 individuals were surveyed this year, and because of COVID-19, there were a smaller number of distinct federal departments captured in this year’s report.

Of those, only the Departments of Commerce (74) and Agriculture (74) scored comparably to the economy-wide national ACSI average (74.4 as of Q3 2020). The former is down from last year (75 in 2019), while the latter is up from 70.

The remaining departments scored considerably lower than the national ACSI average. The Department of Health and Human Services was third at 65, followed by the Department of Justice at 64. The Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration tied at 63, and the Treasury Department finished last with an ACSI score of 60.

Another down year for citizen satisfaction in the federal government

For three consecutive years, citizens have been less satisfied with the federal government. Thanks to the decrease in 2020, this score is the lowest it’s been since 2015.

Yet, for all the malaise with politics, the general decline across the board cannot necessarily be attributed to the Trump administration. COVID-19, however, kept people away, limiting the number of interactions with – and services received from – the federal government.

Still, it’s clear that individuals who did deal with the federal government in 2020 were not satisfied. Here’s to hoping they have a better experience in 2021.

Streaming during COVID: What companies can do to satisfy their ever-growing customer base

Americans’ cord cutting had started well before the pandemic. But, with COVID-19, that shift has only picked up steam.

Before COVID-19, 73% of U.S. consumers subscribed to at least one streaming service. Now, 80% reside in a household with at least one paid streaming service, according to a recent Deloitte study. Prior to the pandemic, consumers paid for an average of three services. That number is now up to four.

There are no signs of slowing down for this industry – even when life eventually goes “back to normal,” as 45% of consumers plan to make streaming a permanent part of their life after the pandemic, per a new TransUnion study.

So, with all signs pointing to streaming remaining a regular fixture, the question is: What can the industry do to keep viewers from “changing the channel”?

Let’s see what the data has to say.

The newer, the better

For the most part, streaming providers are keeping consumers relatively satisfied, per our most recent Telecommunications Report.

Viewers are pleased with how easy it is to use on-screen menus and programming (score of 79 on a 0-100 scale). They’re satisfied with the overall performance and reliability (76). For the most part, they even feel good about the content itself – including the quality of original programming (76), the variety of movies by category (76), and the quality of movies by category.

Yet, one area that customers feel misses the mark is the availability of new movie titles. According to the data, this benchmark still resides at the bottom of the streaming industry with an ACSI score of 71.

Americans haven’t been able to go to the theater for a long time, and they’re clearly missing out on the experience of watching a new flick on the big screen. Luckily, the industry — recognizing that this might be an issue — is bringing movies straight to them.

Disney released the live-action adaption of “Mulan” exclusively on Disney+ on Sept 4. for an additional price. The studio moved the Pixar film “Soul” to the streaming platform on Christmas Day as well. Warner Bros’ “The Little Things” premiered on HBO Max (and opened in select theaters) on Jan. 29 and has a whole slate of 2021 films set to be released on the streaming service (for a month) and in theaters simultaneously.

The pandemic has forced the film industry to adapt in countless ways, including postponing one film after another. But it’s also allowed them to reach consumers through streaming, offering access to plenty of new movie titles. Streaming platforms would be wise to continue this trend to keep viewers engaged.

Be original

We can’t reiterate this enough: Customers crave original content.

According to our data, customer satisfaction with the quality of original programming remains steady with an ACSI score of 76.

Netflix (78) has been the king in this department, and they want to keep the crown. The streaming giant is projected to spend $19 billion on original content in 2021 alone. Yet there are several fierce competitors coming for the throne.

Customers are more satisfied with the content on Disney+ (80) than other provider, per our latest data. You can chalk a lot of that up to “The Mandalorian,” which has helped the streamer reach 73.7 million subscribers as of Oct. 3. Disney has no intention of resting on its laurels.

The studio is restructuring its media and entertainment divisions to make creating original content for its direct-to-consumer outlets – Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN Plus – its main priority. With the release of “WandaVision,” a Black Panther series in the works, and plans to capitalize on the exciting Marvel Cinematic Universe, Disney+ should be well-positioned.

The battle for streaming supremacy

As one of the original streaming services, Netflix was able to build a leg up on the competition. But the race is far from over.

Not only has Disney+ recently usurped Netflix for customer satisfaction, but other streamers are also nipping at their heels, including Apple TV (77), Hulu (77), and Amazon Prime Video (76).

NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock, which launched back in April 2020 and has 22 million users as of the end of October, is absorbing the WWE Network, while ViacomCBS will be relaunching CBS All Access as Paramount Plus on March 4.

Everyone wants a piece of the streaming market. The older streaming companies are making moves, and new players aren’t shy about entering the fold. With so many streamers wrestling for consumer eyeballs, the name of the game is to give the people what they want. Offering original content and new movie titles are good places to start.

Airlines fly to record-high customer satisfaction during pandemic. Here’s how

For the past two years, passenger satisfaction with airlines has been climbing. Over the last six months, it’s reached new heights.

Per our Special COVID-19 Travel Report 2020 – based on surveys conducted from April 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020satisfaction with the industry soars 1.3% to its all-time high ACSI score of 76 (out of 100).

Even before that, airlines were on an upward trajectory. They were the only travel industry to improve satisfaction from April 2019 to March 2020.

How could this happen at a time when airlines were cutting schedules, planes were flying nearly empty, and cancellations rose to 41% (in April 2020)? Which airlines rose to the occasion – in the middle of a global pandemic – to meet the needs of their customers?

Let’s discuss.

Airlines offering a more ‘comfortable’ experience

In the past six months, seat comfort is the only element of the passenger experience that improves. While it continues to be one the worst aspects of flying, airlines have made significant strides in this area in recent years.

In 2015, seat comfort had an ACSI score of 64. In 2019, it climbed to 69. A year later, it reached 72. Since March 2020, that number is up 3% to 74 – an all-time high.

Much of this most recent rise can be attributed to carriers blocking middle seats during the pandemic to allow for social distancing.

Although no other factors improve over the six-month COVID-19 period, many benchmarks remain in good standing. Per passengers, mobile apps lead the way, as both reliability and quality score 82. Passengers also feel good about the check-in process and website satisfaction despite each dipping 1% to a score of 81.

Furthermore, passengers are quite happy with baggage handling, flight crew courtesy, gate staff courtesy, loyalty programs, and on-time arrivals, all touching down with a score of 79.

Southwest shines while Delta takes off in a major way

Southwest climbs to the top spot in the airline industry after rising 1% to 80. Per our most recent data, customers believe Southwest has the smoothest check-in process and provides the best value. The airline also improves in the quality of its in-flight entertainment, seat comfort, and the availability and size of overhead storage.

For the first time since 2004, Delta moves into second place. The airline soars 3% to a record-high score of 79.

As early as April, Delta put in serious social distancing measures, blocking the middle seats on its flights. It’s the only major airline to keep this policy in place through March 30, 2021. Passengers have taken notice, as the airline now holds the top score for seat comfort. Delta has also prioritized cleanliness and leads that area as well.

Airlines have more room to grow

Although airlines are the only travel industry to make positive strides over the past six months, there’s still room for improvement.

Passengers find it more difficult to make reservations (down 2% to 80) since March 2020, while the boarding experience and call center interactions are also worse for wear, each sliding 3% to a score of 78.

Still, during a period when fewer people are traveling and the industry is facing major financial hurdles, airlines are keeping customers satisfied. And those customers won’t soon forget it.