J.D. Power Ranks Travel Customer Service Champions

Despite shortfalls in the service sector, three airlines (JetBlue, Southwest and WestJet), two hotel brands (Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton), one airport (Indianapolis International) and one rental car company (Enterprise Rent-A-Car) are among the 40 companies identified as customer service champions, according to a new ranking by J.D. Power and Associates.

Power released the results of the "Achieving Excellence in Customer Satisfaction” report that contains a cross-industry analysis based customer feedback, opinions and perceptions of more than 800 companies gathered from J.D. Power studies. The studies were conducted in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010. The report also identifies 40 brands—the top 5 percent of those included in the report—as Customer Service Champions.

"To be good in any industry, it makes sense to look at the best practices across industries," said Gary Tucker, senior vice president of global services and emerging industries at J.D. Power and Associates. "Every day, consumers interact with companies from a myriad of industries. Invariably, they compare the quality of these service experiences. Industries and companies should be doing the same if they expect to keep pace in today’s increasingly competitive environment."

According to Tucker, companies that have successfully weathered the economic storm are those that have in place a business strategy of service excellence and recognize that delivering high-quality service is a powerful differentiator in the face of changing market conditions. Unprecedented commoditization has occurred in many industries due to increased automation, standardization and globalization, which makes it even more difficult for brands to maintain differentiation based on price alone—and raises the importance of providing superior service.

Brands that receive the J.D. Power Customer Service Champions designation are among the top 5 percent of more than 800 evaluated brands, based on their performance in five key areas identified as the J.D. Power 5 Ps: People, Presentation, Price, Product and Process. J.D. Power Customer Service Champions not only excel within their respective industries, but also stand out when evaluated across multiple industries, the company reports.

"Today’s consumers expect companies to do it all and have the right people, the right presentation, the right price, the right product and the right process," said Tucker. "Brands identified as J.D. Power Customer Service Champions are getting all of these things right. Some are even outperforming the best of their peers in meeting heightened customer expectations."

During the past decade, average satisfaction scores for service-oriented industries have remained flat, unlike in product-based industries, for which satisfaction has improved steadily. In addition, across all service industries measured by J.D. Power, gaps in satisfaction between the highest- and lowest-performing brands have increased considerably between 2003 and 2010, J.D. Powers said.

Brands that excel in providing customer service often enjoy higher rates of customer retention, pricing advantages and reduced costs to acquire new customers, compared with companies with lower levels of customer service satisfaction, J.D. Power says.

Among customers of brands designated as J.D. Power Customer Service Champions, 62 percent said they "definitely would" recommend the brand to family and friends, while just 23 percent of customers of other companies included in the report said the same. Additionally, 58 percent of customers of J.D. Power Customer Service Champions said they "definitely would" repurchase products or services from those brands, compared with just 36 percent of customers of other brands included in the report.

Many brands that provide exceptional customer service employ certain key practices, including: communicating effectively and proactively with customers, empowering their people to solve problems, measuring and understanding customer expectations and providing their products and services with speed and convenience.

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