After falling dramatically in 2020 due to COVID-19, customer satisfaction began rebounding in 2021 and is now two-thirds of its pre-pandemic level, according to a Net Promoter Score (NPS) analysis by Qualtrics (Nasdaq: XM) XM Institute. As a sign of economic healing, some industries have even surpassed their pre-pandemic scores, including TV and Internet service providers, which saw consumer satisfaction scores jump 244% between 2019 and 2021.
However, the recovery is not equal across industries. Businesses that provided COVID-19 lockdown essentials — like fast food, streaming media, wireless service and parcel delivery — have nearly or fully returned to pre-pandemic levels. Yet industries that were hit hardest by stay-at-home orders, including airlines, car rental and hotels, are still struggling nearly two years from the outset of the pandemic with the lowest recovery numbers out of all 20 industries analyzed.
NPS is a metric used by organizations to determine brand loyalty. The NPS score represents the share of respondents who would recommend a company. Over the past decade, average NPS scores have fallen by more than 10 points, as consumers reported gradually lower customer satisfaction and loyalty. But the pandemic brought the most dramatic decline across all industries in those 10 years.
From 2019 to 2020, consumer satisfaction fell the most in travel-related industries: car rentals (-20% of 2019’s level), airlines (-4% of 2019’s level), consumer payments, including credit cards and mobile payment services (-1% of 2019’s level) and hotels (7% of 2019’s level). While most travel-related industries are starting to see improved scores in 2021, they still have the furthest to go to catch up.
Meanwhile, industries that became more essential during lockdowns, isolation and virtual work, saw less decline in customer satisfaction. In fact, several industries are performing better than they were pre-pandemic, including TV and Internet providers, insurance and streaming media.
“In the early days of the pandemic, I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted the magnitude of the shift in consumer sentiment from COVID-19. But after the initial interruption to our lives turned into a multi-year ordeal, it’s no surprise that the organizations in the best shape are the ones that pivoted quickly by responding to ongoing changes in their customers’ needs and expectations,” said Bruce Temkin, head of the XM Institute. “While we are not out of the woods yet, I expect we are seeing a permanent shift in the value consumers place on innovation and convenience, which will propel companies that find ways to make life easier for their customers.”
Customer Satisfaction Recovery Over the Pandemic (sorted by 2021 NPS Scores as a percentage of 2019 scores)
|Industry||2020 NPS scores as a percentage of 2019 scores||2021 NPS scores as a percentage of 2019 scores|
|Fastest customer satisfaction recovery during the pandemic|
|TV or Internet Service Providers||54%||244%|
|Slowest customer satisfaction recovery during the pandemic|
|Computer and Tablet Makers||40%||65%|
The Qualtrics XM Institute asked more than 9,000 US consumers about their experiences with 294 or more companies across 20 or more different industries. Each company had a minimum of 100 responses from consumers who had interacted with that company in the past 90 days. Participants were selected via an online panel and the study ran in Q2/ Q3 of 2019, 2020, and 2021. Qualtrics XM Institute has been collecting this type of data for 10 years in order to provide a cross-industry, open-standard benchmark of customer experience. Business Wire