Customer Satisfaction Vs. Customer Service
If you’ve visited Amazon.com
recently, you may have noticed a letter from the company
on its home page touting its high score on the American
Customer Satisfaction Index. Amazon.com is understandably
proud of its score of 88, the highest score received by
a service company since the ACSI began in 1994.
But is a score of 88 really great? Would you be delighted
if your child’s highest grade in school was an 88?
Would you want a pacemaker from a company that received
a score of 88? Would you fly on an airline that received
a score of 88? You never have. The highest score received
by an airline in the latest ACSI report was 74, earned by
Obviously we can’t directly equate customer satisfaction
with quality. If Southwest Airlines’ safety record
compared to its ACSI score, no one would dare get on any
of its planes. Fortunately, Southwest has the best safety
record of any airline.
In a Six Sigma environment, a score of 88 is dismal. But,
if we were looking for a benchmark for customer satisfaction,
Amazon.com would probably be high on the list.
I’ve heard countless times during my years as editor
of Quality Digest how terrible service quality is. Yet there
seems to be little correlation between customer service
and customer satisfaction. For example, in the automotive
world, Japanese automakers’ reputation for high-quality
vehicles led them to market dominance and premium prices.
In the service world, however, customers routinely tolerate
lousy service in order to save a few bucks.
Costco’s ACSI score of 79 is an excellent example.
I don’t mean to imply that Costco has lousy service.
I’m a dedicated Costco shopper myself. Costco shoppers
are willing to deal with the cavernous warehouse environment,
long lines and lack of product specialists in order to save
a few bucks. Costco scores so highly in customer satisfaction
because its shoppers know that they’ll get a very
low price, face no hassles when returning products and that
Costco sells high-quality products.
Contrast Costco’s score with the Federated Department
Stores’ (owners of Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Burdines,
Lazarus and others) score of 71. These high-end stores have
scores of employees to answer customer questions, fancy
displays, sales and other customer motivators. In essence,
they offer high customer service but still score low in
customer satisfaction. The highest retail score was earned
by Kohl’s (84), a discount retailer.
Perhaps the disconnect between high customer satisfaction
and poor customer service comes down to Philip Crosby’s
concise quality definition: Quality is conformance to requirements.
My requirement for the lowest price very often overrides
my desire for high-quality customer service. It explains
why Southwest’s airplanes are almost always full and
Wal-Mart is now the world’s largest retailer. Organizations
that meet neither the customer service nor customer satisfaction
requirements face an uphill battle, which is a significant
factor in the bankruptcies of United Airlines and Kmart.
To learn more about the ACSI, visit www.theacsi.org.
To share your thoughts on the state of customer satisfaction
and customer service, e-mail email@example.com.