The Most Disliked Companies in America

Here is a list you never want to see your company on.  The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released its list of The 15 Most Disliked Companies in America in June.  If you are a marketing manager at one of these companies, it may be your worst nightmare.  Not only are your customers dissatisfied with your product or service, but they are happy to tell the world about it.

Here are the top (bottom?) 15:

Rank           Company               (Rating out of 100)

  1. Long Island Power Authority (58)
  2. Northeast Utilities (59)
  3. Charter Communications (59)
  4. Comcast (61)
  5. United Airlines (62)
  6. Time Warner (63)
  7. Cox Communications (63)
  8. American Airlines (64)
  9. US Airways (65)
  10. Delta (65)
  11. CenturyLink (66)
  12. Facebook (66)
  13. Aetna (67)
  14. DirectTV (68)
  15. Bank of America (68)

By way of comparison, the national index for all companies ACSI tracks is 76 out of 100.

Some quick observations:

More than half of the companies are in utilities and communications (cable TV/internet service).  Many of these companies have a monopoly or a near monopoly in an underserved market.  Customer service might be a low priority when customers don’t have a choice.  I could argue Facebook also fits in the monopoly category because of its dominant market share.

More than a quarter of the companies are airlines.  We have all come to hate air travel.  I saw in another article from ACSI that airline customer satisfaction ratings are improving.  I guess when you are so low and customers’ expectations are nil, there is nowhere to go but up.

Two of the companies (Aetna and Bank of America) are large financial services companies in categories with high customer inertia because of the pain of making a change.  If you have ever tried to switch health insurers you know the issues: ten years of medical history, every medicine you took for 10 years, in-depth questions about that sinus infection you had in 2007, etc.   I am not thrilled with my current bank, but the idea of shopping for something better, and the time and agony of inputting all my payees for new on-line banking system is a pain I can’t endure right now.

So, these are the bad news companies and, to some extent, they damage the reputations of other companies in their industries.  But there are clearly companies in these sectors that perform better.  I checked a few articles on the ACSI web site and found:

  • Verizon leads the communications category with a 74 rating.  Top of the hill, but still slightly below the national index for all industries.
  • JetBlue (81) and Southwest Airlines (77) have significantly stronger ratings than the airlines on the most disliked list and outpace the national index for all industries.
  • Credit unions (87) outscore banks (75) in aggregate mainly because of more personalized service.  Maybe national and super-regional banks should start thinking smaller, instead of bigger, if they want to satisfy customers.

What does all this mean for your brand?

Even if you are in a downtrodden industry, you can still shine.  In fact, it may be easier to shine on a relative basis because all your peers are serving customers so poorly.

Look at your company’s score and the index for your industry to see how you rank.  If you are not at the top, ask your customers what you need to do to serve them better.  If you are at the top, ask customers why they like you.   Emphasize these attributes, but keep focused on changing customer expectations.

Just because a company is at the top of its industry does not mean it is great.  If you are not significantly outpacing the national index for all industries, find out why and focus on fixing the problem.  As Jim Collins said in his classic book Good to Great,“Good is the enemy of great.”

One misstep can knock you from the top of the list.  According to ACSI, Southwest Airlines fell from a long tenure at number one because of problems integrating its acquisition of AirTran.  Consideration of every major change should be accompanied by the question “How will this impact customer satisfaction?”.  Detailed plans should focus on how possible problems can be avoided and what steps to take if problems occur.




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