iPhone 7 Plus beats the Galaxy S8 and iPhone X in customer satisfaction

Smartphone sales may have plateaued, but customer satisfaction is still high.

While the latest data and phone manufacturer earnings reports show the impact of longer replacement cycles and fewer leaps ahead in technology, phone manufacturers’ ACSI scores have held steady.

Whether that’s good news or bad news for the industry depends on what comes next.

Apple and Samsung hold steady out in front

It should be no surprise that Apple and Samsung are neck and neck in the lead for customer satisfaction, as they have been since 2014.

Samsung has the higher market share, with 21.9 percent to Apple’s 15.2 percent, but when it comes to customer satisfaction, Apple remains on top with a score of 81, ahead of Samsung’s score of 80, according to the 2018 ACSI Telecommunications Report. Those scores have held steady since 2016.

This year Motorola took third with a 79, rising 3.9 percent year over year, while LG rose 4.1 percent to 77 and HTC sat still at 76.

Cellular telephones as a whole stood at 79 for the third straight year, a sign that we’ve reached a point where new phones aren’t impressing customers the way they once did with leaps in features and capabilities.

Which phones are customers most satisfied with?

Among individual phones, the iPhone 7 Plus came out on top with an ACSI score of 85, beating out the Galaxy S8 Plus at 84, and the Galaxy S8, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus, which all tied at 83.

Despite being the best-selling smartphone in the first quarter of 2018, the iPhone X landed in the middle of the pack, scoring an 80 – the same as the iPhone 7, iPhone 5S, iPhone SE, and Moto G, among others.

Perhaps the iPhone X’s cost affected its score—criticism that it wasn’t much different from the iPhone 8, just more expensive, could have dampened enthusiasm for the flagship model.

At the bottom of the list are the iPhone 6 and LG G Stylo tied at 78, followed by the Galaxy S5 at 76, and the iPhone 5 in last place at 75.

The age of these phones is likely a factor in their scores, as the iPhone 5 was originally released in 2012, the Galaxy S5 and iPhone 6 in 2014, and the G Stylo in early 2015.

Different phones excel at different tasks

The customer satisfaction ratings for particular features show how different phones succeed in different areas.

For example, the Galaxy S8 Plus ranked first for the quality of its video, while the iPhone 8 and Galaxy Note 5 tied for top marks for quality of audio.

The G Stylo, which overall ranked near the bottom of the list, ties the iPhone 7 Plus for first place in the ease of navigating menus and settings, and takes a close second, behind the Galaxy S8 Plus, in its design—which includes overall size, weight, and size of the screen.

While the G Stylo is more than three years old, it beat out the Galaxy S8, the iPhone X, 8, and 8 Plus in quality of design.

Among the many features measured for the different phones, battery life was among the lowest-ranked. The Galaxy S8 Plus came out on top in battery life, with the iPhone 8 Plus close behind, and the iPhone 7 Plus and Galaxy S8 tied for a distant third.

Why customer satisfaction with phones has held steady for years

Pretty much any phone you buy today is going to offer an outstanding experience. Of course there are varying degrees of outstanding, but the differences are around the edges – a slightly larger screen here, a slightly better camera there, and so on.

The iPhone X, despite improving upon existing iPhones, didn’t revolutionize the market the way the first iPhone did back in 2007.

The iPhone 7 Plus had higher customer satisfaction ratings than newer phones because it’s not that much different than the new phones, but it’s more affordable than recent models. Many don’t feel the need to upgrade as often as they once did, both because of the lack of attractive new features and because changes in phone contracts make getting a new phone more expensive.

We’re all waiting for the product that comes along and makes us want to chuck our smartphones in the trash because the new one is everything we never realized we needed.

It’s getting hard to imagine what that next big thing will be, but eventually it will arrive and shake up this space’s ever-steady customer satisfaction ratings.

Video streaming services compared: Which ones have the highest customer satisfaction?

At one point, “streaming video service” was just a synonym for Netflix. But Hulu and Amazon Prime Video were close on its heels, and now dozens of streaming providers are wading into the waters.

But not all streaming providers are created equal. Some, like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, are investing billions of dollars in original programming. Some have a better and broader selection of movies and TV than others.

It’s clear that streaming services are trouncing subscription TV in terms of customer satisfaction—streaming has an ACSI score of 75, while subscription TV declined this year to a 62.

But in this highly competitive space, measured for the first time in the 2018 ACSI Telecommunications Report, some streaming services set themselves apart, while others fare no better in customers’ eyes than subscription TV.

Here’s who came out on top, who still has work to do, and the aspects of video streaming that customers are most – and least – happy with, from their bill to the quality of original programming.

Netflix, Vue, and Twitch on top

Tied for first place in customer satisfaction, Netflix, Sony PlayStation Vue, and Amazon’s Twitch scored 78, the highest score in the telecommunications segment.

Netflix is the undisputed leader among streaming services, having paved the way for others in the industry, and it continues to dominate. It added a record 7.41 million customers in the first quarter of 2018.

While its subscriber numbers are nowhere near Netflix’s, PlayStation Vue’s customization and flexibility aid its ranking; users don’t mind paying more for what they perceive to be a strong value. Vue sits in a good position with cord cutters disgruntled with cable TV service.

Amazon’s Twitch has taken a different path, capitalizing on the growing popularity of streaming video games, including e-sports, a popular category especially with younger viewers—61 percent of e-sports viewers are between 18 and 34.

Tied for second place are à la carte streaming services Apple iTunes and the Microsoft Store, both with scores of 77.

Amazon Prime, Hulu, YouTube Red in the middle

Google’s YouTube Red comes in at 76, ahead of Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Walmart’s Vudu, and Hulu, which all tied at 75.

While YouTube Red is rebranding to YouTube Premium, it has had success recently with Cobra Kai, an original series based on the Karate Kid franchise that recently beat out original shows from Hulu and Netflix to top the streaming charts.

Hulu has few ways to differentiate from its competitors in terms of subscriber satisfaction, but with Disney set to assume majority ownership, the service may offer more content and original programming in the future.

Amazon Prime Video has joined rival Netflix with Oscar nominations – and wins – in the last couple years, and has about 26 million viewers.

Network channel subscriptions bring up the back of the pack

Limited by the content they can provide, network channel subscriptions rank below average. CBS All Access (74) comes in ahead of HBO Now and Starz (both 72) and Showtime Anytime (70). DISH Network’s Sling TV (71) has a narrow lead over AT&T’s DIRECTV NOW (70).

At the bottom, Sony’s Crackle takes last place with 68. Even with the lowest score in the video streaming category, Crackle rates higher than all but two pay TV providers.

What viewers like and don’t like about streaming video

The top-rated aspect of video streaming is the ease of understanding the bill, which streaming customers find much more straightforward than subscription TV customers (ACSI score of 80 for streaming, 73 for subscription TV).

Website satisfaction is high (80) among video streaming customers, as is overall performance reliability (78). Call center service was rated 75, head and shoulders above subscription TV, whose call centers were rated 63 after a 3 percent decline from last year.

Streaming video services face an ongoing battle for content, which is often outside of their control. While viewers rate the quality of original programming at 74, they say the most room for improvement is in the availability of current season’s TV shows (71) and new movie titles (69).

The future of video streaming services

While video streaming handily beat subscription TV, that isn’t exactly difficult considering that subscription TV, along with internet service providers, is one of the lowest-rated industries the ACSI tracks.

Many aspects of video streaming services, from ease of understanding the bill to call center experience, outstrip those of subscription TV, but within the streaming space itself, it’s getting harder for some services to differentiate themselves in a crowded market with a few entrenched household names.

By more closely examining how consumers rated their services, however, video streaming providers can better meet viewers’ preferences and redefine perceptions – as well as improve their ACSI score – moving forward.

The best and worst airlines according to customer satisfaction

Fortunes in the airline industry can change in an instant.

Southwest, which led all airlines in the latest ACSI Travel Report with a score of 80, recently had a plane engine explode and kill a passenger.

Allegiant Airlines, which jumped 4 percent in 2018 to a score of 74, was the subject of a damaging investigation that alleges the airline fails to follow safety standards, among other issues.

Not to mention the rising costs of fuel and new labor agreements. Or the spate of recent mergers that gives no more than four operators control of 80 percent of the market.

If you follow the news, you’ve likely seen countless stories of customer service mess ups on the part of airlines. And yes, the ACSI score for airlines dropped 2.7 percent from last year. All but four of the largest airlines saw weaker passenger satisfaction this year. And with the exception of the check-in process, which remained unchanged from last year, every aspect of flying has deteriorated in 2018.

But there is also good news for airlines in the scores. Let’s take a closer look.

Airlines with the highest customer satisfaction

Southwest, whose ACSI score remained unchanged from last year, took the lead from JetBlue, which fell 4 percent. JetBlue now sits tied for second with Alaska Airlines, which inched up 1 percent.

Southwest’s low fares and high service levels, combined with its growing network, have kept its customer satisfaction levels steady – this is its third year in a row with the same score. Alaska Airlines was boosted by considerably lower ticket prices and its merger with Virgin America, which has a legacy of good customer service.

Tied for third place are Allegiant (up 4 percent), American (down 3 percent), and Delta (down 3 percent). United fell 4 percent, and bringing up the rear are Frontier (down 2 percent) and Spirit (up 2 percent).

Allegiant’s gains may be short lived following news reports of mechanical issues and safety concerns that sent its stock tumbling. Beleaguered by customer service issues, United saw the sharpest decline in the airline industry in ratings of its employees’ courtesy and helpfulness.

Business travelers vs. leisure travelers

Dividing travelers based on the reason for their travel – business or leisure – uncovers interesting insights into customer satisfaction.

One of the biggest differences between the two is that business travelers are more apt to complain. More than a third of the business travelers surveyed filed a complaint with an airline, over three times the 11 percent of leisure passengers who did the same. But business travelers are also much more satisfied, with ACSI scores more than 8 percent higher than those from leisure passengers.

That makes sense: Business travelers travel more often and are more emboldened to address any issues they experience. Airlines, knowing business travelers are among their best customers, make an effort to right any wrongs. Business travelers are also just more experienced, smart travelers. While infrequent leisure travelers might be unhappy with an unexpected part of the boarding process, for example, business travelers know how to play the game.

ACSI-travel-business-vs-leisure

There are also stark differences around airline baggage fees. Among leisure travelers who didn’t pay fees to check luggage (56 percent), the ACSI score was more than 4 percent higher than among leisure travelers who did pay.

For business travelers, it was the opposite. The 69 percent of business travelers who paid to check baggage also had the highest ACSI score among business and leisure travelers, and nearly 7 percent higher than the business travelers who didn’t pay for checked luggage. Not having to pay out of your own pocket certainly helps.

What needs improvement: Nearly everything

The ACSI score for the check-in process held steady, but every other aspect of flying declined.

Ease of making a reservation, the courtesy and helpfulness of flight crews, timeliness of arrival, and website satisfaction all dropped about 1.2 percent. Seat comfort, already in last place, fell an additional 3 percent.

What’s the good news in all this? That even small improvements could pay big dividends for airlines. Just as fortunes can change in an instant for the worst, they can also shift for the better. By homing in on even a few areas to upgrade, airlines can improve their perception among customers.  

Facebook privacy issues: Consumers rank Facebook last among social media sites

Facebook has had a busy couple weeks. Between back-to-back hearings on Capitol Hill last week and new questions from the European courts this week, the social media behemoth is getting its fair share of regulator attention, negative press, and user complaints.

One of the main spotlights is on Facebook’s privacy policy, especially after the Cambridge Analytica scandal news broke. However, the company’s less-than-stellar record with customer privacy has long been an issue.

Facebook has always struggled with satisfying customers – particularly in the privacy department — according to eight years of customer satisfaction research. When looking at its ability to protect the privacy of personal information, Facebook ranks dead last, which is likely due to its revenue goals encroaching on customer privacy. The second worst, LinkedIn, scores a full 11 percent higher than Facebook.

Overall, Facebook is one of the lowest-ranked companies among e-business sites, scoring a 68 out of 100 — and that’s before the last six months of negative press.

For reference, the social media industry average score is 73.

ACSI-social-media-site-scores-2017Overall ACSI customer satisfaction scores for social media sites as of July 2017.

Across all industries, a key driver of satisfaction is maintaining privacy of information. However, people also value convenience and Facebook is engrained into the social fabric of our lives. Users haven’t changed their privacy settings, and even Facebook’s stock has risen – but not recovered – since Zuckerberg’s testimony to Congress.

Facebook may be too large to be quashed by these recent privacy fumbles, but its satisfaction score can – and likely will – take a hit. It’s certainly a warning to all companies in privacy management: Customers expect their information to be secure.

We’ll take a closer look at social media website scores this summer, but for now, take a deeper dive into the most recent customer satisfaction data with more insights on this industry.

 

Customer satisfaction with hospitals grows as health care sector shifts

One word defines health care right now: consolidation.

Pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) are merging with insurers. United Health Group led the charge a few years ago, buying Catamaran. Now CVS is buying Aetna and Cigna is buying Express Scripts. Walmart is in talks to buy Humana. Some see this as motivated by the potential for Amazon to leap into the health care space; the major players are joining forces to ensure they’ll be able to compete.

But the joining of PBMs with insurers could have an effect on hospitals as well.

UnitedHealth bought Surgical Care Affiliates to expand into primary and urgent care in ambulances, and picked up a physician group, moving closer to direct delivery of medical care. CVS and Aetna plan to add community medical clinics to their repertoire. Walmart already operates retail health clinics and has said it would begin offering lab-testing services in some stores.

The $18 billion urgent care center space is expected to grow nearly 6 percent in 2018, building on the more than 7,600 urgent care centers in the U.S. as of June 2017. The number of centers in 2017 was up nearly 10 percent over 2015.

The surge in clinics could be the reason that customer satisfaction with emergency room services jumped 6 percent since last year, to an ACSI score of 73.

That was the most dramatic change in the health care and social assistance sector, and drove the 1.3 percent increase in customer satisfaction with hospitals.

Inpatient hospital care saw a 1 percent rise to an ACSI score of 77. The gains in ER and inpatient care helped offset a decline for outpatient care, which ebbed 3 percent to 78.

Patient satisfaction with ambulatory care (office visits to doctors, dentists, optometrists, and mental health professionals) held steady at 77 for the third year in a row.

Among patients 51 years and up, satisfaction with hospitals was much higher, at a score of 80, than among those 18-50 years old, where it stood at just 72. The difference in satisfaction between the two age groups was most pronounced in outpatient care and emergency room services, where ACSI scores among those 51 and up were 10 points higher than scores for those 18-50.

It will be interesting to see the effect that continued growth of urgent care clinics will have on ER perception moving forward. And when Amazon, along with its collaborators JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, does make moves in health care, it will be anyone’s guess how the health care and social assistance sector, and patients’ satisfaction with its services, will respond.

UPS tops FedEx in customer satisfaction, as Amazon appears on the horizon

Amazon overshadows many industries, as we saw last month in the retail sector. Now, consumer shipping, long the beneficiary of all those Amazon orders, is bracing for a future in which Amazon makes its own deliveries.

The Wall Street Journal last month reported that Amazon is planning to launch “Shipping with Amazon,” a delivery service for businesses shipping to consumers. Of course it would take years for Amazon to build a parcel delivery network at the scale of United Parcel Service (UPS) and FedEx, but even the specter of Amazon should be enough for the established players in the shipping industry to redouble their efforts in serving customers.

Where do they stand right now?

Customer satisfaction with consumer shipping was stable at an ACSI score of 81 (out of 100), but UPS jumped into the lead at 82, growing 1 percent over 2017. FedEx fell 1 percent to 81. The U.S. Postal Service’s Express and Priority Mail business climbed 1 percent, but remains a distant third place at 76.

Customers gave top marks to shippers for delivering packages in good condition (88) and making it easy to track shipments (86). Customers who visited a post office or a UPS or FedEx store feel that service staff members were slightly less courteous and helpful this year (85), but all other customer experience benchmarks remained the same.

It might seem easy to write off the U.S. Postal Service’s Express and Priority Mail business, which remains well behind the category’s leaders in terms of overall customer satisfaction. But it’s actually tied with FedEx in customer loyalty and has a lower percentage of customer complaints. UPS had the best scores in the industry for each of those measures.

With Amazon dipping its toes in the shipping space and, according to the Wall Street Journal, threatening to undercut UPS and FedEx pricing, the shipping giants can only rely on their established infrastructure so long. Investing in customer service could continue to set these companies apart.

Drug store mergers heat up as retailers defend against the Amazon threat

Among retailers, health and personal care stores were one of the bright spots in our latest Retail Report 2017.

Just like supermarkets, health and personal care stores climbed one point to an ACSI score of 79. While that doesn’t match the 82 of internet retailers, it’s a high score, and the improvement points to the results of both M&A and preparations for Amazon to enter the space.

But that vote of confidence from customers is just the prelude to a shake up that the industry’s many mergers are creating.

The leaders shed points, but still lead

Kmart pharmacies and Kroger were tied at a score of 80 at the top of the health and personal care industry. However, both saw their ACSI score fall in 2017, with Kmart pharmacies shedding 4 points and Kroger down 1 point. Kmart pharmacies did show significant improvement in service quality, and both brands improved in meeting customer expectations.

CVS customer satisfaction powered by and preparing for mergers

CVS was right behind the leaders at a company-best 78. It was the most improved in the category, gaining 2 points, and one of only two large chains to improve over 2016.

Acquiring Target pharmacies may have boosted CVS’s customer satisfaction scores. When dividing CVS’s score into CVS and Target pharmacies, Target stands at a score of 80, while CVS sits at 77.

The health care retailer’s possible merger with Aetna is suspected to be a preemptive move to counter the threat of Amazon, which may begin selling prescription medicine. Whether this merger will boost customer satisfaction – or even go through – remains to be seen.

Rite Aid split among Albertsons and Walgreens

Rite Aid, which fell 1 point in 2017 to a score of 77, is in the middle of being purchased.

Walgreens is snatching up 1,932 Rite Aids (it tried to buy all of them before antitrust scrutiny led to a scaled-back deal). And now Albertsons plans to buy the remaining 2,500 Rite Aids, further expanding its footprint after merging with Safeway in 2015.

It seems many of the health and personal care stores toward the bottom of the ACSI rankings are banding together in hopes of better serving customers and getting ahead of Amazon’s potential entrance in the market.

Walgreens gained a point in 2017 to tie Rite Aid at 77. Safeway pharmacies was just a point higher at 78 after plummeting five points from last year, a drop of 6 percent. Declines in customer loyalty and perceived value contributed to the fall.

Perhaps the many mergers and acquisitions will give these stores more resources to improve customer satisfaction.

The elephant in the room

In the end, M&A in the health and personal care space, as well as the improvements in service quality and meeting customer expectations, are all about Amazon. The potential for the dominant internet retailer to enter the space and push out any and all competitors has many companies making big moves to shore up their ranks.

If Amazon steps into the space, a focus on customer satisfaction will be critical to winning customer loyalty and dollars.

3 ways financial advisors can hold onto customers despite market volatility

The stock market’s rocky start to February has investors, observers, and advisors watching the peaks and valleys and wondering what’s next.

At least for financial advisors, there are a few steps forward in the latest ACSI data around customer satisfaction.

The ACSI Financial Advisors Report 2017 collected data in the fourth quarter of 2017 and reflects customer perceptions when the stock market was still soaring. As you might expect, the scores were high. The average of 81 (out of 100) places it in the top 10 industries measured by the ACSI.

But it also contains opportunities for advisors to differentiate themselves and rise above their competitors, something especially crucial if market volatility remains a trend.

Currently, the major financial advisors have ACSI scores within a few points of each other. LPL Financial and Charles Schwab lead the pack with a score of 82, while Fidelity, Merrill Lynch, and UBS all have the lowest score of 79.

The narrow range shows how competitive the industry is right now and how small, incremental changes can help advisors stand out. Here are three ways to improve customer satisfaction, according to the data:

1. Focus on improving customer service.

Despite the relatively high scores for financial advisors overall, they also have the fourth highest complaint rate of any industry measured by the ACSI – a red flag of negative feedback from customers experiencing problems.

This is probably the biggest opportunity for financial advisors to set themselves apart. A concerted effort to improve service – whether through more face-to-face contact or instantaneous chat capabilities on a website — could increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

2. Develop or upgrade mobile options.

Mobile options for account management had one of the lowest scores among all the benchmarks, coming in at 78.

While the industry has to contend with compliance constraints, a push behind better mobile capabilities could set advisors apart and give them a technological lead over their competitors.

3. Establish routine contact with investors.

Scores for routine contact with investors (81) and personal contact (79) were two others with lower scores among financial advisors.

Investors will likely have questions about the recent volatility in the markets, making this a prime opportunity for improvement. By taking a more proactive approach to client communication, advisors can not only help clients navigate a suddenly shaky market, but develop relationships with customers that could weather further market volatility.

How customers feel about their financial advisors

While these steps are a start, we’ll have to wait and see how the markets fare in the coming weeks and months.

We’ll closely monitor the perceptions of customers and see whether the high ACSI scores for financial advisors hold up even if the big upticks we saw in 2017 don’t materialize in 2018.

Take a deeper dive into all the customer satisfaction data for financial advisors for more insights on this segment of the market.

Love or hate Trump, government satisfaction just hit an 11-year high

Customer satisfaction for U.S. federal government services just hit an 11-year high. Yes, you read that right.

If you watch the news, skim the headlines, or scroll through Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that people have wildly different perceptions of how well the government is working.

But as far as customer service is concerned, many Americans agree: The federal government is much better than it was just a few years ago, and is the best it’s been since 2006.

Just a few hours before President Trump gives his first State of the Union address, the economy appears to be flourishing and GDP is rising. But there are other measures of success to factor in. Let’s look at a few.

“Customers” are satisfied with the government

Citizens using the government’s services are happy with their experience, according to our most recent data. In fact, customer satisfaction with the federal government’s services improved for a second year in a row, increasing 2.5 percent to reach 69.7 (on a 100 point scale).

Four key factors drive satisfaction:

  1. Quality of federal websites (up 1 percent to 77)
  2. Courtesy and professionalism of customer service personnel (down 1 percent to 77)
  3. Clarity and accessibility of information received from agencies (up 1 percent to 73)
  4. Timeliness and efficiency of government processes (up 3 percent to 72)

Last year, the federal government’s website performance saw the highest gain, but customer service was the highest-ranking factor in overall customer satisfaction. This year they tie as the most important indicator for happiness.

Political affiliation doesn’t matter

You may think that customer satisfaction with the government directly correlates to political affiliation. The party in power surely must impact the overall consumer satisfaction rate.

But, surprisingly, you’d be wrong.

In fact, satisfaction among Republicans dropped over the past year (1 percent decrease to 69), and it remained unchanged (73) among Democrats. Independents shifted the most, with a 3 percent gain to 67.

The ACSI survey doesn’t measure satisfaction with government policy and leadership, instead relying on the four factors above to analyze interactions and determine the scores. But it’s still interesting that affiliation and opinions on the administration didn’t appear to muddy consumers’ perceptions of the processes and services they received.

Not all government services are created equal

While customer satisfaction with the federal government overall has been climbing, there’s varying opinion of which government services are most customer-friendly.
The Departments of Justice and Interior performed particularly well this year (81 and 78 respectively), while the Departments of the Treasury and Housing and Urban Development were at the bottom of the spectrum (61 and 60 respectively). The IRS is included in the Treasury Department, which will be interesting to watch now that the tax overhaul is in effect — both from the perspective of lowering costs as well as simplifying the process, which historically results in higher satisfaction.

The 21-point gap between the highest and lowest performing departments is significant, but not unusual or unexpected. The 69.7 average means consumers are getting what they need and are relatively satisfied, but there’s room for improvement.
Private companies still reign supreme

While almost 70 percent doesn’t seem too bad for a customer satisfaction score, the government still falls short of the private sector.

For example, credit unions have a high customer satisfaction level (82), as do the banking and shipping industries (81). Many other private companies are in the low-to-mid-70 range, putting the federal government’s report card on the lower end of all industries the ACSI surveys. In fact, only subscription TV services rank lower than government services, at 64.

Based on historical data, the government is always at or near the bottom of the ACSI. This isn’t a new finding, but it is significant in the context of customer perception.

What to watch moving forward

Tonight’s State of the Union should give insight into the government’s priorities for the next year and what we might expect for major projects and policies.

But a more politically polarized country and low approval ratings for President Trump don’t necessarily translate into a change in the ACSI report. However, if there are positive changes to government websites and the friendliness of service-oriented staff, we could continue to see the upward shift in customer satisfaction.

Bank Customer Satisfaction Offers Challenge to Credit Unions

Customers are finding retail bank services more satisfying in 2017—so much so that banks hit an all-time industry high score on the American Customer Satisfaction Index that is close to approximating member satisfaction with credit unions. Historically, banks were once among the lower-scoring industries in the ACSI, but now they are in the top quartile for customer satisfaction.

In 2008, credit unions debuted in the ACSI with a score that nearly topped all other industries in the Index. At 84 on the ACSI’s 100-point scale, credit unions came in second only to personal care and cleaning products (85) and were ahead of retail banks by a whopping 9 points. Now 10 years later, retail banks score 81, trailing credit unions (82) by just a point.

Digital banking plays a strong role in helping banks meet their customers’ needs more efficiently. As mobile banking grows in popularity, customers choosing to use apps can have a satisfying experience—leaving more time for bank staff and tellers to offer a personal touch for those who continue to do their banking in-branch.

Size still matters when it comes to satisfying bank customers, and smaller community and regional banks continue to offer an experience that beats both super regional and national banks. With an ACSI score of 85, small banks are significantly ahead of credit unions as well.

Credit unions and smaller banks show similar ACSI results across key elements of the customer experience and for the most part exceed the performance level of the larger banking institutions. With more personalized service, small institutions score better than big banks for staff courtesy, transaction speed, account information, ease of making account changes, and competitiveness of interest rates. The exceptions are number and locations of branches and ATMs, where the scale of big banks comes into play.

As credit union membership grows, however, the industry may be struggling with maintaining the very high level of service that once set it apart from big banks. Looking at some of the touch points where small institutions typically shine, it is interesting to note that big banks are closing the gap to credit unions over the past two years. In 2015, for example, national banks trailed credit unions by 7 points for transaction speed, but this has lessened to 3 points this year. For staff courtesy, the gap between national banks and credit unions has gone from 5 to 3 points. A similar pattern prevails for both website and call center satisfaction.

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