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.

How to satisfy your younger investors (Hint: You’re doing it wrong)

Young investors are no longer just dipping their toes in the market – they’re taking the plunge.

According to our most recent Finance, Insurance, and Health Care Report, the percentage of respondents age 18 to 25 who’ve used internet investment services has nearly doubled year over year to 18%.

If only their level of satisfaction matched their eagerness.

While this generation’s participation in investment services is up, satisfaction is down, sliding 4% to an ACSI score of 71. This number is significantly worse than the industry average of 78.

So, why are younger investors so unhappy with their online investment experiences? How can brands not only attract, but retain these customers? Let’s take a look at where the industry is missing the mark (spoiler alert: it’s not just one thing).

Internet investment services are universally worse for wear

To say internet investment services aren’t meeting the demands of customers would be an understatement. And not just among younger investors.

The industry has the largest customer satisfaction drop-off in the Finance and Insurance sector at 3.7%, and not a single element of the investment experience improves.

Overall, internet investment services’ mobile apps fared best. But they’re still worse than the year before, with mobile app quality slumping 2% to 83 and mobile app reliability dropping 4% to 82.

Websites are struggling as well. Site performance, product selection, and the ease of making transactions all decline 4% to 79. Customers also find it more difficult to navigate sites, with satisfaction tumbling 4% to 78.

The remaining elements all decline to a score of 77: product descriptions (down 4%), customer support (down 4%), investment research (down 3%), and investment planning tools (down 3%).

Financial advisors don’t have the answers, either

Financial advisors have the same problem with younger investors. The percentage of survey respondents age 18 to 25 using financial advisors nearly doubled to 15% in 2020. Unfortunately, these young clients are less thrilled with their advisory experiences, as satisfaction sinks 3% to 72.

Among all demographics, we see similar patterns. While not as worse off as internet investment services, financial advisors also struggled to please customers in 2020, with satisfaction down 2.5% overall to a score of 77.

Mobile apps, like with internet investment services, have the highest marks. But, again, customers are less happy than last year, with satisfaction for mobile app quality and reliability both decreasing 4% to 81. Customers also want financial advisors to give them more mobile options to manage their accounts (down 1% to 76).

How to keep young investors engaged

The younger generation is more comfortable with digital tools. The problem is, both internet investment services and financial advisors are slipping in these areas. And it goes beyond tech.

Newer investors aren’t as pleased as seasoned investors. This year, customers who have worked with their online broker for less than a year are much less satisfied (72) than those who have been with their broker for more than one year (78).

Younger generations want to invest. However, the real challenge is keeping them interested. It starts with meeting their needs and focusing on what they want from an investment standpoint.

Online brokers should provide more digestible information for new investors. Everything from product information to investment research.

Financial advisors must establish a relationship. While trust and confidence are down 4% to 78, customers feel advisors could do a better job of explaining investment strategies (down 3% to 77) and prices and fees (down 3% to 76).

Determining how to relay this information effectively is another area of importance. Find a balance of communication. Most customers are less happy with the frequency of routine contact, by mail or by email (down 3% to 77), as well as contact by phone or meetings (down 1% to 75).

Improved digital services are a good place to start, but younger investors won’t just invest blindly. They don’t want to be bombarded with calls, but they don’t want to be left in the dark, either. You must walk a fine line.

The good news is younger investors are more receptive to investing. Only by meeting their needs can you keep it that way.