Customer Experience Is Critical in Net Promoter Benchmarks

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Virgin America, Amazon.com, Costco, and Apple are among the leaders of the pack in customer loyalty this year, according to Satmetrix's 2012 Net Promoter Industry Benchmarks survey.

In the survey of more than 30,000 U.S. consumers spanning 22 industries, participants were asked, "How likely are you to recommend a company's product or service?" More than 200 brands were rated across industries like financial services, insurance, online services, retail, technology, telecommunications, travel, and hospitality. Several new categories were added this year, including auto service and repair, drugstores and pharmacies, hardware and home supply stores, hotels, and travel Web sites.

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors, defined as customers who rate a company six or lower on a scale of zero to 10, from the percentage of promoters, those customers who rate a company nine or 10 on the same scale. Customers are also asked to rate the brand on overall value, product and service features, and other criteria.

This year, customer experience played a critical role. Companies that stole a top spot on the benchmark index, like airlines category leader Virgin America, which received an NPS of 66 percent, really delivered on their service promise, says Deb Eastman, general manager of consulting at Satmetrix.

"What's interesting about customer experience is that you set an expectation through the brand that you represent in the marketplace," Eastman explains. "If you look at Kohl's or Target or Nordstrom in our retail study, you'll see they all scored pretty high. They're very different in terms of what they offer the consumer, but they're good at what they're doing."

Promoter comments about Nordstrom emphasized "service," while Target's comments centered on "breadth of products." And when it came to Kohl's, it was all about "price."

Eastman went on to say that these companies "understand their customer segmentation and are monitoring the customer experience to ensure they deliver a positive experience that meets the promise they've made to their customers" without trying to be everything to everybody.

Not every industry fared as well. Banks and telecommunications continued to struggle. Seven banks counted more detractors than promoters, and Internet service providers tied with health insurers for the lowest average NPS of 4 percent, the report indicated. Even Verizon, the highest-ranking ISP, settled in at just 18 percent.

"We see a lot of issues around network and Internet reliability, depending on what kind of communications company it is," Eastman notes. "A lot of promoter comments for Verizon were about the bundles that they have…. People struggle with price as a driver of loyalty, but I do think there's a perception among consumers that bundles tend to give them a better perception of value."

2012 Net Promoter Industry Benchmarks Leaders

Here are some other highlights from this year's Satmetrix index:

  • Technology: Apple was a double-duty winner this time around, nabbing an NPS of 71 percent for computer hardware and 68 percent for consumer software apps.
  • Online Search and Information: Google stole the top spot with an NPS of 56 percent. Facebook dropped 21 points from last year's benchmark, coming in at 31 percent. For online shopping Web sites, Amazon.com was at the top at 76 percent.
  • Financial Services: USAA had the highest NPS across all sectors, at 83 percent. Wachovia did not fare well, coming in at -15 percent. American Express, at 43 percent, was at peak placement for major credit card issuers.
  • Travel and Hospitality: As mentioned, Virgin America was rated the top airline, at 66 percent. JetBlue was hot on its heels, coming in at 64 percent. American Airlines, adversely, scored -5 percent. In hotels, Marriott and Hilton came out on top at 55 percent.
  • Retail: Specialty grocers scored strong in overall brand NPS, with Trader Joe's and Wegmans tying at 73 percent in the grocery and supermarket sector. In wholesale and specialty retailers, Costco was the victor at 71 percent. In department stores, Belk and Nordstrom both scored 66 percent; Sears ranked among the lowest at 35 percent.

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