PC Satisfaction: Apple and Samsung Vie for Top Slot

Apple personal computer and tablet owners have a long track record of loving their chosen product, checking in with a customer satisfaction rating of 84 for 2016 on the ACSI’s 100-point scale. While Apple’s ACSI leadership in the personal computer industry is well established, Samsung surges 6% to second place, just a point below Apple this year.

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The tight race between Apple and Samsung mirrors the two companies’ battle in the cell phone industry. As reported by the ACSI previously, Apple and Samsung were deadlocked for customer satisfaction in 2015 and remain just a point apart in 2016 (81 and 80, respectively). The caveat for smartphone satisfaction, however, is that Samsung’s current score of 80 reflects customer evaluations from March, well before the release and disastrous battery failures and fires of its Galaxy Note7. The first Note7 recall in September was followed by a second recall that included all replacement phones, prompting Samsung to permanently halt production and sales of the Note7. In 2017, Samsung will likely take a major hit in customer satisfaction for its product meltdown, much like Toyota did when it recalled millions of cars starting in 2009 due to danger of sudden acceleration.

In terms of the personal computer market, smartphones pose a threat to PC sales as tablets have not been the longer-term solution for mobility that the industry may once have envisioned. Interestingly, Apple and Samsung have very different strategies regarding the future of tablets. Apple is targeting business customers on the go with laptop-like features for its iPad, while Samsung tablets occupy their own space as devices for entertainment and browsing, rather than laptop replacements. The number-three PC manufacturer for satisfaction in 2016 is Amazon, another maker of tablets. At 80, Amazon falls short of the PC scores turned in by Apple and Samsung, but it easily matches their most recent scores in the cell phone segment.

For the overall PC industry, customer satisfaction improves 1.3% to 78, driven by better scores for tablets and laptops. Customer satisfaction for desktop computers remains unchanged year-over-year at 81, ahead of both tablets (+4% to 78) and laptops (+3% to 77). While this could be a good sign for traditional PCs, there is also the possibility that a shrinking customer base is leaning toward the more loyal desktop users. Moreover, two of the three leaders this year—Samsung and Amazon—specialize in tablets and other mobile devices, not traditional PCs.

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ACSI Household Appliance and Electronics Report 2016 »

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Domestic Automakers Catching Up to Foreign-Made Vehicles

ACSI annual reporting shows the automobile industry bouncing back after three years of declining customer satisfaction. The overall industry is up 3.8% to 82 on ACSI’s 100-point scale, with scores tightening between domestic and international manufacturers.

While foreign-made autos have long held the customer satisfaction advantage, domestics are catching up, rising to 81 overall compared with Europe and Asian carmakers at 82.

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2016-auto-dom-2016-bar Among domestic automakers, Ford keeps its lead, stepping up to 84, followed by GM (81) and Fiat Chrysler (78). Although U.S. auto sales were down in August, with signs that demand may have peaked, the good news for Detroit is that higher levels of customer satisfaction will make American autos more competitive.

Luxury cars have dominated the driver satisfaction rankings for years, but the industry’s top tier is now evenly split between mass market and luxury vehicles. Brand exclusivity may no longer be enough for luxury plates if consumers are finding little difference between premium and lower-priced vehicles. Across the top 10 plates for customer satisfaction, Ford’s Lincoln leads at 87, with Honda at 86. German luxury plate BMW is deadlocked with Toyota-branded vehicles at 85, while GMC and Subaru lock horns with upscale Infiniti and Lexus (all 84).

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The ACSI Automobile Report 2016 was released in August. View complete report »

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ACSI Restaurant Recap: Fast Food Garners Better Ratings

The fast food experience is on the upswing with consumers in 2016, as higher quality drives improving scores for the industry.

ACSI Restaurant Report 2016 »

Limited-Service Restaurant Scores »

Full-Service Restaurant Scores »

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BuzzFeed: Chick-fil-A Leads Fast Food Industry In Customer Satisfaction, Chipotle Falls »

CNN Money: This Is America’s Favorite Fast Food Restaurant »

Consumerist: Everyone Still Loves Chick-Fil-A; Chipotle, Not So Much »

QSR Web:  Americans Have Lots Of New-Found Love For Fast Food, But Still Smitten With Full-Service »

ACSI Final Poll Has Clinton Up 7 Points Over Trump

ACSI Presidential Election Survey: October 31 to November 3, 2016

As a tumultuous election season draws to a close, ACSI’s latest polling shows the two presidential candidates in positions that vary little from initial surveys conducted early August. With just days to go before November 8, Democrat Hillary Clinton’s projected voter share stands at 48% to Republican Donald Trump’s 41%. This final popular vote count is closely aligned with ACSI’s inaugural survey projection of Clinton 49% and Trump 39%.

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Over the course of the survey cycle, Clinton consistently has shown an advantage over Trump, with the narrowest spread occurring just after Labor Day (5 points). In the election’s final week, the gap is 7 points in Clinton’s favor.

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The ACSI survey characterizes supporters as “strong” or “weak” depending on the gap in both satisfaction and expectations for each of the candidates. In the polling conducted between October 31 and November 3, 2016, Clinton loses some strong support, down 4 points to 35%, while Trump shows a slight uptick to 29%. For weak support, both candidates gain 2 points but remain nearly deadlocked at 13% (Clinton) and 12% (Trump). Undecideds increase for a second week to 12%.

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The final demographic breakdowns of voter share have Clinton ahead in nearly every age, gender, and ethnic category. Consistent with most prior weeks of polling, Trump carries the advantage among older voters and those with less than a college degree.

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The ACSI surveyed 1,543 registered voters nationwide from October 31 to November 3, 2016, for a total of 15,220 since polling began on August 1, 2016. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points for voter share.

Press Release: Final ACSI Popular Vote Prediction — Clinton 48%, Trump 41%  »

ACSI Launches Voter Satisfaction Survey

ACSI Presidential Election Survey: A Measure of Voter Satisfaction With the Major Party Candidates and Their Campaigns

Week of September 5 to September 9, 2016

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) launches a new study tracking “voter satisfaction” with the race for U.S. president, to be updated each week with new data until November 7, 2016 (the day before the election).

Customer satisfaction is a proven predictor of purchases of goods and services; therefore, it should have predictive power for presidential elections as well. Like consumers, voters may pick candidates based on the “expected satisfaction” that a candidate will deliver. Expected satisfaction, in turn, is predicted by current satisfaction. Accordingly, the ACSI will track expected and current satisfaction with the two major party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

In markets for goods and services, current satisfaction is determined by a customer’s “consumption experience.” In the absence of any such actual experience prior to the inauguration of a new president and a period of actual governing, the ACSI uses a proxy that measures satisfaction with each candidate’s campaign. From these two measures—expectations and satisfaction with the candidates and their campaigns—both the breadth (“market share” or voter share) and depth (satisfaction) of support are derived for each candidate. An algorithm for estimating voter share and satisfaction is used to group registered voters into “strong” and “weak” supporters of each candidate and to identify both the size and satisfaction levels of those groups.

Beginning with data from the week of August 1 to 5 for the first wave and ending with the week of September 5 to 9, a total of 5,311 interviews were conducted thus far. During the first week of August, voter satisfaction was 74 for Clinton and 72 for Trump. These results do not represent percentages but rather ACSI scores on a scale from 0 to 100. The corresponding estimated voter share (or market share) in week one for Clinton was 49% versus 39% for Trump. Thus, not only was Clinton’s satisfaction score higher than Trump’s, her share of the vote also was substantially higher.

Following the first week of August, voter satisfaction for Trump slipped, rebounded, and peaked, and then declined for two consecutive weeks. During the same period, Clinton’s voter satisfaction was mostly flat, but then also declined for two weeks. According to the most recent data, Clinton’s satisfaction score has dropped to 73 (-1), while her voter share has receded 2%. Meanwhile, Trump’s satisfaction is unchanged since the first week of August, although he has gained in voter share (+3% to 42%). Nevertheless, Clinton continues to lead in both voter satisfaction (73 vs. 72) and voter share (47% vs. 42%).

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Unlike traditional trial heat polls, measuring current and expected satisfaction with the major party candidates allows researchers to group voters into “strong” and “weak” support groups. In the diagram, “strong” supporters are those defined as being much more satisfied with one candidate and much less so with the other. “Weak” supporters are defined as those only somewhat more satisfied with one candidate over the other. “Undecideds” express equal satisfaction/dissatisfaction with the two candidates.

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For Clinton, 35% are strong supporters. For Trump, 30% are strong supporters. When combining strong and weak supporters, Clinton currently has a voter share of 47% and Trump has 42%. 11% are equally satisfied or dissatisfied with the candidates.

The following table shows how support for each candidate has fluctuated over the past six weeks. For Trump, the share of strong supporters has risen from 27% to 30%, while Clinton’s has actually declined (to 35% in week six from 38% in week one). Undecideds have shrunk from 13% of the total to 11%, although the number of undecideds is actually higher now than in the prior week.

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The following tables depict voter share for each candidate for the week of September 5 to September 9 among various demographic groups. Clinton holds a strong lead over Trump among respondents 18 to 34 and a slight lead among voters 35 to 54. The two candidates are nearly even among voters 55 and above. Similarly, Clinton holds a big lead among women, while enjoying a smaller lead among men.

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Clinton holds a massive lead over Trump among African Americans and a strong lead among Hispanics, but among white voters the two are tied. Finally, respondents with less than a college degree break decisively for Trump, while those with a college degree or more favor Clinton by almost 20 percentage points.

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Download Free PDF of This Survey »

Press Release: Clinton Leads Trump in Voter Satisfaction, According to ACSI »

News Websites Score Record Satisfaction Amid Election Cycle

Americans are happier than ever before with online news channels as a raucous presidential election cycle keeps readers coming back for more. While internet news and opinion shows only modest fluctuations over time, the year 2016 proves record-breaking for this e-business category, with user satisfaction springing upward 4.1% to 76 on a scale of 0 to 100. People are fascinated with the news right now, and the bump in satisfaction is reflecting greater interest in opinion pieces and updates from readers’ favorite sites.

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Satisfaction improves nearly across the board for news websites, regardless of political leaning, although the biggest gain goes to the group of smaller websites, up 7% to 77. This group encompasses a wide variety of outlets—from BuzzFeed and Drudge Report to the online presence of The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. FOXNews.com retains its lead with an 4% boost to 79. Meanwhile, The Huffington Post, part of Verizon Communications’ AOL subsidiary, can’t shake last place despite a 1% gain to 72—a new high for the website.

In today’s 24-hour news cycle, the internet is the ideal vehicle for delivering content quickly and in a steady stream, and digital news sites are upping their game. Consumers of online news give the industry a high score for freshness of content (80). Key elements such as ease of navigation and information variety are up 4% from a year ago. The exception—consistent across all e-business categories—is amount of advertising, which rates quite low at 68, down 4% over the past year.

Customer Satisfaction Challenge Ahead for Charter as TWC, Bright House Phase Out

Just one year ago, Time Warner Cable (TWC) tumbled to last place for customer satisfaction among 300+ companies in the ACSI. Along with TWC, Comcast showed the biggest ACSI loss among subscription television providers, a situation that has turned around in 2016. This year’s gains for Comcast and TWC (14% and 16%, respectively), come close to reversing two years of losing satisfaction, but neither company breaks out of the bottom quartile of the ACSI. While Comcast failed to nail down a marriage with TWC, Charter Communications is tying the knot, which will bring an end to the TWC brand.

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ACSI results show Charter’s customer satisfaction fluctuating, now down 6% to 60 as the company begins its stint as the second largest U.S. cable operator following acquisitions of TWC and Bright House Networks. Among broadband players, Bright House at 66 is a cut above most. Nevertheless, like all cable companies, Bright House lags behind the fiber optic leaders of the pay TV industry, Verizon Fios (70) and AT&T U-verse (69), as well as satellite operators DIRECTV (68) and DISH Network (67). As a group, cable companies bring up the rear, but the range of scores is broad—from the above-average showing of Bright House and Cablevision to the last-place performance of Mediacom (54).

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Mergers overwhelmingly dampen customer satisfaction in the short term, which could spell trouble for Bright House customers as the brand phases out and combines with Charter. For Charter, the challenge will be keeping satisfaction levels from falling further as it takes on a bigger slice of the market.

Bloomberg.com: So Long Time Warner Cable: Charter to Retire Maligned Brand »

Charlotte Observer: Customer Satisfaction Improves for Cable, Internet Providers »

CRM Buyer: Pay TV Firms Eke Out Tiny Gains in Customer Satisfaction »

Marketing Daily: Telecom Customer Satisfaction Improving, Slightly »

Multichannel News: Cable Stops Slide But Remains in ACSI Cellar »

Philly.com: Comcast Service Ratings are Better, But Still Low »

Yahoo! Finance: New Customer Service Survey Says Comcast is No Longer the Worst »

Smartphones 2016: It’s a Galaxy and iPhone Universe

When it comes to pleasing consumers, the smartphone market is essentially a two-horse race, with Apple and Samsung running nearly neck-and-neck for the past two years. In 2014, Samsung gained an advantage in ACSI overall, posting 81 on a 0-100 scale to Apple’s 79, but the two market leaders deadlocked the next year.

Results from a recent report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index show Apple inching ahead to grab the customer satisfaction lead in 2016, propelling the cell phone industry average up to 79 (+1.3%). Lenovo’s Motorola Mobility comes in a distant third at 77 (-3%).

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Drilling down to the brand level reveals a preponderance of Samsung and Apple devices at the top, led by Samsung’s Galaxy Note5 at 86. Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus is a mere point behind at 85, while two more Galaxy phones clock in at 84 (S6 edge+ and Note 4). Altogether, a dozen Apple or Samsung models score above the industry ACSI average of 79, with only Motorola’s Moto G penetrating this group at 81.

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In general, phones with bigger screen sizes are more satisfying to users. The top four devices in 2016 sport displays that range from 5.5 to 5.7 inches. Among the newest iPhones, Plus models do better than their base versions (iPhone 6s Plus and 6 Plus edge 2 points ahead of 6s and 6, respectively). There are exceptions; for example, the Galaxy S III (4.8-inch display) does quite well with an ACSI score of 80. This older Samsung model ties Galaxy S6 and nudges past S4, S5, and Grand Prime (screen sizes of 5.0 to 5.1 inches).

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CNET.com: Apple’s Only Thiiisss Much Better Than Samsung in Customer Satisfaction »

Investor’s Business Daily: Samsung Phones Top Apple iPhones in Customer Satisfaction »

SlashGear: Galaxy Note 5 Beats All Other Phones in Customer Satisfaction Index »

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 »

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 »