How Airlines are Measuring Customer Satisfaction


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The latest rankings from the 2013 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) point to a general unhappiness with the airline industry, says a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article. Airlines are near the bottom of the list when it comes to customer satisfaction, with an average score of 69 on a 100-point scale. This puts the industry only slightly above cable television and Internet service providers, the two lowest on the list.

On average, airlines scored in the 60s, but some, like JetBlue and Southwest, scored in the 80s. What makes these companies different?

Admittedly, we think companies that put customer service first, in terms of time, money, and benefits for their employees, see those costs come back in a huge way in terms of customer impressions.

Southwest Airlines has been a leader in customer satisfaction for years, and as you may have heard has recently contracted with Aspect to expand its contact center and workforce optimization solution to a full suite of cloud-delivered technology. Southwest integrates customer service into multiple channels in their company by:

  • Using different channels to achieve different strategic goals
  • Recognizing the value of customer contact in building loyalty
  • Understanding what their customers value
  • Integrating emerging consumer technologies

Alaska Airlines, third in the ACSI ranking, listened to their contact center agents when they asked for telecommuting options and in turn saw a 4.9% gain in productivity. That means an increase in production equaling 12 extra full-time employees. Moreso, it means that more customers are able to have their questions answered and issues resolved faster.

Another way to meet customer service challenges is by looking at the specific needs of your customers and finding a way to meet that demand. Virgin Atlantic saw a lot of time wasted—both for the company and customers—by routing calls between departments. They implemented Aspect solutions, including CallCenter ACD, Uniphi Connect, and Workforce Management, to streamline their processes and automate routine calls. This change led to decreased costs, greater agent productivity, and happier customers.

The news for airlines isn’t all bad. With customer- oriented companies leading the way, airlines are performing better than they have in over 15 years.

At 69%, there’s still a lot of room to grow, but it’s also the highest score the industry has seen since 1996. When more companies view customers as the highest priority, and put workforce systems into place that meet that demand, it will lead to more satisfied customers that look forward to traveling instead of dreading it.

How does your business measure customer satisfaction?

Register now for this week’s webinar, Metrics and Tools to Measure Customer Satisfaction, at 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET on Thurs. Sept. 19 with Aphrodite Brinsmead, Ovum’s Senior Analyst. Learn how accurate techniques for collecting, analyzing and applying customer feedback and agent performance metrics can deliver valuable business insights like those being applied by the airlines.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tim Dreyer
Tim Dreyer, Director of Public Relations and Analyst Relations at Aspect, is a results-oriented manager with over 18 years of advertising, marketing communications and public relations and social media experience developing and implementing media programs, advertising strategy, and marketing programs. Tim's background includes a range of broad cross-functional experience and strong leadership.


  1. It is so good to see airlines making customer satisfaction more of a focus than cost cutting – there’s been far too much growth in the “cheap and cheerful” airlines who govern everything by cost and have been edging out the competition based purely on their fares. For long haul travel cheap isn’t the best answer or you end up with a totally hellish start to your holiday or business trip! Same principle for getting to the airport – sometimes public transport may look cheaper but add up the hassle of shifting your luggage, managing the kids and rushing if trains are late and suddenly some good airport parking seems like a great alternative!

  2. Some industries have significantly eroded trust with customers, choosing to focus on harmful competitive wars in pricing and revenue nickel-and-diming. Airlines, telecoms, cable TV, ISPs, and financial services are among the worst trust eroders (see page 13 of the Edelman Trust Barometer report Why is trust a good proxy for customer satisfaction and related business results? Because it all boils down to expectations delivery: living your brand promise.

    When an industry reduces value by monetizing everything that was previously part of the main price, or by penalizing customers via seemingly randomly determined policies, it’s no wonder that the industry as a whole suffers in both trust and satisfaction studies. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how to stand out from the crowd in such industries, and I applaud Southwest and JetBlue as examples of rising above the fray. In some industries, the fact that a company won a JD Power award or some other best-of-industry accolade can be dubious, given the poor trajectory of that industry. Since customers are the primary source of salaries, budgets, and profits, why do managers essentially stick a knife in customers’ bellies? Makes no sense.

    In this article as well as so many customer experience discussions, there appears to be an assumption that customer service is the source of customer satisfaction. Sure, friendliness and respect shown by front-line employees is especially important in service industries. But my bet is that policies, processes, and decision-making of everyone in the company who is not on the front lines can make a massive difference in customer trust, satisfaction, and business results. Not only can the rest of the employees help their company rise above the fray of their lackluster industry, but they can make a huge difference in intangible benefits of being a front-line employee, preventing a lot of grief for all involved.

    (my related article: Improve Customer Experience by Eliminating Customer Focus Boundaries)


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