Galaxy and iPhone Customers Weigh In on Their Brand of Choice

In July, the American Customer Satisfaction Index released its first-ever customer satisfaction results for top-selling smartphones. The 2013 scores prompted great interest and lively discussions in the media as two Samsung phones dashed past three Apple devices to lead the survey at 84 (on a scale of 0 to 100).

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The new brand study is based on the same independent, scientific methodology that the ACSI has employed since 1994 to measure 40+ industries which market products and services to U.S. consumers. Proprietary technology ensures all ACSI results are consistent, reliable, and comparable across time periods, companies, and industries.

In May, the ACSI issued updated customer satisfaction scores across the cell phone industry—a category measured since 2004. The yearly study measures customer satisfaction at the company level and includes each manufacturer’s complete product line—smartphones and feature phones. While Apple and BlackBerry offer smart devices only, other manufacturers such as LG, Nokia, and Samsung sell a mix of phones—some smart and some feature.

For the cell phone industry overall, Apple retains its lead for a second year, perhaps benefiting from its smart-only product line. Meanwhile, Samsung at 76 trails Apple by 5 points. There is, however, a key difference. While Samsung’s customer satisfaction trajectory is on the upswing and the company gains 7% compared to the prior year, Apple’s score slips—down from 83 in 2012 to 81 in 2013.

Enter the ACSI’s smartphone-only brand study. When considering only smartphones—which display a sharp customer satisfaction advantage over feature phones in ACSI research—Samsung’s Galaxy S III and Note II lead the field according to consumers who own these particular smartphone models. The owners of Apple’s iPhone 5, 4S and 4 give their smartphone choices somewhat lower scores in the range of 81 to 82.

Read more later this week in the ACSI’s August 2013 newsletter »

ACSI Smartphone Brand Study in the News:
Engadget
Forbes
InformationWeek
The Huffington Post

Will Changes to Frequent Flyer Programs Help Airline Satisfaction?

Passenger satisfaction with airlines is one of the lowest-scoring industries measured in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (69 on a 0-100 scale), beating only subscription TV and Internet service. Out of 11 categories of airline customer experience benchmarks ranging from ease of the check-in process to handling of baggage, the quality of loyalty programs is third from the bottom (73), scoring above quality of in-flight services at 68 and seat comfort at a dismally low 63.

Airlines may now be seeking to improve their loyalty program satisfaction, as many have announced changes to or entire overhauls of their existing programs within the past few weeks, according to the New York Times.

Some changes may have the potential to change satisfaction scores for the better—for example, an ability to convert hotel reward points to airline miles, to earn miles from flights on partner airlines, and expanded access to airport lounges. Other changes including higher award ticket fees, establishment of minimum annual spending stipulations, and removal of elite mileage bonuses could be detrimental to passenger satisfaction.

ACSI data show that added fees lead to lower overall customer satisfaction. Looking at the past two years, overall satisfaction for passengers who did not pay a baggage fee was 73, while those who paid fees were much less satisfied with scores in the mid-to-low 60s. It is interesting to note, however, that those paying a baggage fee are somewhat more satisfied this year (65) compared to 2012 (62). If passengers are adjusting to these fees—or more likely, finding ways to avoid paying them—this could account for the small uptick.

Nevertheless, changes to loyalty programs that move in the direction of higher costs for travelers, either adding fees or removing benefits from existing programs, will undoubtedly take a toll on customer satisfaction in this already poor-performing industry.