The field of customer experience made headlines a few months back when Bloomberg Businessweek published a story titled, “Proof That It Pays to Be America’s Most-Hated Companies.” The article highlighted an analysis of the 2013 stock market returns for 146 publicly traded companies ranked on the 2013 American Customer Satisfaction Index® (ACSI).
“You won’t be happy with the result,” Bloomberg Businessweek reported. “Basically, the customer-service scores have no relevance to stock market returns.” And, in fact, regression analysis found a slight downward trend, “suggesting that the most-hated companies perform better than their beloved peers.” The article concluded, “Your contempt really, truly doesn’t matter to these companies, with no influence on the bottom line. If anything, it might hurt company profits to spend money making customers happy.” Ouch.
The numbers were so troubling that they even got airtime on the satirical late night news program The Colbert Report. This is one of my favorite shows, and Colbert’s coverage of the study was like a dagger to my heart. While some might argue that any publicity is good publicity for the field of customer experience, I think the reported data are damaging to the discipline. What’s worse is that they’re misleading.
It’s true that the worst companies in the ACSI outperformed the best in 2013. I’m not a financial analyst, but the folks at ASCI argue that this is due to strange market conditions in 2013. “This anomaly is due to the fact that investors have favored low-priced stocks (which have performed poorly in the past) over high-quality stocks (which are, appropriately, priced higher). In that sense, what we have is a junk rally.”
In fact, the ACSI portfolio has significantly beaten the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 stock market index over the past 13 years. One hundred dollars invested in the ACSI portfolio in April 2000 would have been worth a whopping $580 in 2013 — and would have grown to just $121 on the S&P 500 in that same timeframe. This trend isn’t limited to the United States; companies who do well on the National Customer Satisfaction Index-UK also outperform their competitors and local market indices.
As I’ve said in the past, you need to invest in improving your customer experience.