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Temkin Releases 2014 Customer Service Ratings

Given all of the talk of omnichannel marketing and de-compartmentalizing business structure, one might assume top-tier customer service would be imperative for every business. This is clearly not the case for some industries, according to the fourth annual customer service rankings for 2014 by Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm.

During January,Temkin surveyed 10,000 U.S. consumers and had them rate their customer service experiences over the last 60 days across 19 industries and 233 companies.

“Service interactions are when customers care the most. It’s when they’re the most emotional, and there’s a real opportunity here for companies to gain positive connections with customers,” explains Bruce Temkin, managing partner of Temkin Group. “As a marketer, pushing brand growth and communicating a positive brand image is hard to do when the company has a bad reputation for customer service.”

Companies in the fast food, grocery, and investment firm verticals had the best customer service during the survey period, with industry averages rating “strong” (at least 60%) or better. The top five companies were USAA (Bank), Amazon and USAA (Insurance)—which tied for second—Chick-fil-A, and Publix. Barnes & Nobel, Costco, Kroger, Nordstrom, and Trader Joe’s all ranked within the top 20.

Industry averages for Internet and TV service providers ranked fell into the “very weak” category (less than 40%), with the average wireless carrier averaging “weak” (between 40 and 50%). Airlines, health plans, and hotels averaged a “weak” ranking or worse. Comcast took the bottom two spots for customer service ranking for both its Internet and TV services. The bottom 20 companies included Highmark, US Airways, Time Warner, and Verizon.

“Telecom companies have thrived based on local monopolies and have operated as if customers don’t have a choice,” Temkin says. “When you don’t have to focus on keeping customers loyal then you end up with bad service. Many of [these companies] recognize this and try to fix it, but there’s a long history and culture of bad service.”

According to the survey, the average company improved by two percentage points between 2013 and 2014. Humana’s rating improved by about 18%, Cox Communications by 17%, Morgan Stanley by 16%, and Apple Store by 15%. Conversely, Comcast, Fifth Third Bank, and Marriot fell by at least 10%.

“Unhappy customers talk more than happy customers, which leads to disproportionate word of mouth,” Temkin notes. “It’s hard to improve a brand when so much negative word of mouth is going around.”

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