I Can’t Get No Satisfaction (according to the ACSI)

12 Apr

Do I look satisfied to you? (Source: celebdelacream.com)

Satisfaction. It’s essentailly what we search for our whole lives (especially the Rolling Stones, who still haven’t gotten any after 48 years).

For a business owner, though, customer satisfaction can sometimes be difficult to get a handle on. Customers aren’t always willing to directly tell you when they’re unsatisfied, and they’re even less likely to tell you when your service exceeded their expectations.

Fortunately, that’s what the American Customer Satisfaction Index is there for. Here’s how they describe themselves:

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is an independent national benchmark of customer satisfaction with the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States.

Each year, roughly 70,000 customers are surveyed about the products and services they use the most. The survey data serve as inputs to an econometric model that benchmarks customer satisfaction with more than 230 companies in 47 industries and 10 economic sectors, as well as over 100 services, programs, and websites of federal government agencies.


Spoooooooky. (Source: wikipedia.org)

Pretty fancy, eh? Now, unless you’re the ghost of Sam Walton, it’s unlikely that your company is big enough to be surveyed by ACSI. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn some lessons from their survey.

Let’s take a look at the most recent results. According to USA Today:

Customer satisfaction with retailers is at an all-time high.

That’s good!

However, while the industry improved overall… not all retailers received high marks.

That’s bad.

At the positive end of the spectrum, while traditional brick-and-mortar retailers set a record, e-commerce scored better still.

That’s good!

At the negative end, traditional retailers received the most negative assessments.

That’s bad.

In total, traditional retail companies (stores that you go to) averaged a customer satisfaction score of 76.6 out of 100, while online retailers (stores that come to you) averaged 82. What does e-commerce offer that brick-and-mortar stores don’t? Mostly convenience. It’s not particularly surprising that people are happier sitting in their comfortable home, wearing their comfortable robes, shopping for items that will lead to further comfort.

There’s one notable exception to that online/in-store split, though.

While most online retailers have scored well on the ACSI, with an average score of 82 in 2012 vs. an average of 76.6 for brick-and-mortar retailers, Netflix (NFLX) was an outlier. It received a score of 75 in 2012, and 74 in 2011, when the overall average score for online retailers was 81. This was a dramatic reversal from past years. In each year from 2006 through 2010, the company exceeded its benchmark, and in 2009 it was the top-scoring company of e-commerce retailers that ASCI tracked.

What happened? You might have heard.

Netflix famously enraged customers in late 2011, when it increased prices and announced plans to separate its DVD rental and streaming platforms. But after a considerable hit to its image – consumers were outraged at the prospect of having to pay bills for two platforms that would not be coordinated — the company pulled the plug on the service split.

Netflix’s instinct to split their service and offer a more customized product wasn’t necessarily terrible, but obviously they miscalculated the number of customers who would be adversely effected. Though their stock has mostly recovered from the 80% hit it took, it appears their customer satisfaction numbers have yet to do the same.

You might not run a multi-national monolith, but there are two simple lessons to take away from those numbers. First, if your customers are overwhelmingly happy with your product, don’t dramatically change it – or at least do it in a way that doesn’t alienate everyone.

Second, the internet is no longer the future – it’s the present. If you’re not offering your services online, now’s the time. Actually, the time was probably two years ago, but Doc Brown isn’t going to bail you out with a time machine, so you better get on it ASAP.


Get on the internet, Marty! (Source: absurdintellectual.com)

Everyone has access, so get yourself a website; it will broaden your customer base. Shift your business tools to something web-based; you’ll improve your service.

If you ever want to receive an invite into the exclusive ACSI club, there’s no time like the present (or two years ago).

One Response to “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction (according to the ACSI)”


  1. In Social Media We Trust | Very Bad Business Bureau - May 10, 2013

    […] to rip off my ideas, […]

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