In addition to identifying the overall weighted^ drivers of customer satisfaction within a given industry, the flexibility of the J.D. Power Index Model can also pinpoint differences based on consumer behaviors and demographics. For example, Rewards may be a vital part of the experience for one segment of credit card customers, while Card Terms may be more important to a different segment of customers.
With regards to the credit card experience, the drivers of customer satisfaction differ between new and tenured cardholders. Card Terms (e.g. fees, rates, credit limits) is a bigger driver of satisfaction amongst new cardholders (less than one year with issuer), while Billing/Payment and Interaction (e.g. website, call center representative) are bigger drivers of satisfaction amongst tenured cardholders (one year or more with issuer).
Analysis of data from the 2014 Credit Card Satisfaction Study also finds that most issuers struggle to maintain satisfaction with cardholders as the tenure of their relationship increases. As displayed in the chart below, a majority of issuers receive ‘above-average’ satisfaction amongst new primary cardholders (less than one year). However, only three issuers have above-average satisfaction amongst tenured cardholders (one year or more). This seems to indicate that the ‘shine’ of a new credit card wears off quickly, and it is important for issuers to focus efforts on maintaining satisfaction throughout the life of the relationship.
^For each industry measured, J.D. Power utilizes a multi-regression analysis to identify and prioritize the primary drivers of customer satisfaction.
Financial institutions often have staffing and queueing models in-place to minimize customer wait times and improve the efficiency of interactions. However, there are still instances where customers are forced to wait in-line at a branch or are placed on-hold before speaking to a call center representative. When traffic is high and customer wait/hold times are necessary, financial institutions can offset wait-time dissatisfaction by providing quality service once the interaction begins.
For example, the chart below looks at call-center satisfaction among credit card customers that waited at least five minutes before speaking to a call center representative. On average, all credit card customers waiting five minutes before speaking to a rep. have a satisfaction score of 775 (on a 1,000-point scale). However, when a customer waits five minutes and is then greeted in a friendly manner by their call center rep., satisfaction increases to 795. And when a customer waits five minutes, is greeted in a friendly manner and the phone rep had their account information ready prior to joining the call, satisfaction increases further to 827. Finally, satisfaction increases even more when the rep. offers additional assistance and thanks the customer for their business – when all four best practices displayed in the chart below are provided, satisfaction among customers waiting five minutes increases from 775 to 835.
Source: 2014 J.D. Power Credit Card Satisfaction Study
Similarly, among retail banking customers, simply greeting customers as they enter the branch can significantly improve satisfaction with wait-times in the teller line. In the chart below, satisfaction among customers who waited 3-4 minutes but received a greeting when entering is 8.60 on a 10-point scale, which is higher than customers that did not have to wait but did not receive a greeting when entering the branch (8.39).
Source: 2014 J.D. Power Retail Banking Satisfaction Study
In an ideal scenario, credit card issuers would excel at servicing all aspects of the customer experience. However, data from J.D. Power’s Credit Card Satisfaction Study consistently finds that every credit card issuer has both strengths and weaknesses with regards to the level of service provided to their customer base.
And because no issuer has unlimited resources to devote towards improving the customer experience, determining which initiatives should receive top-priority becomes an important piece of strategic planning.
The 2014 Credit Card Satisfaction Study has identified 12 ‘Key Performance Indicators’ (KPI’s) which represent service behaviors that have the greatest individual impact on customer satisfaction. In other words, “if you can’t do everything right, make sure you are doing these things right.”
As a whole, the industry struggles most with educating customers on card terms (i.e. rates, fees, etc.) and simplifying the login process for online account access. Only 50% of credit card customers completely understand their credit card terms, and only 53% of customers report that it is very easy to login to their account. It is also important to note that these are two of the most impactful KPI’s, based on their potential impact on overall satisfaction.
The KPI performance of each individual card issuer varies widely, and each has a unique set of strengths and opportunities. In order to successfully prioritize any investments towards improving customer satisfaction, it is important for each issuer to fully understand which of their metrics have the greatest room for improvement while also understanding the potential ‘impact’ of each metric.
American Express and Discover—two credit card issuers with very different business models—tie for the highest ranking in credit card customer satisfaction, demonstrating that there is more than one path to satisfaction, according to the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction StudySM released on August 26th.
The study, now in its eighth year, measures customer satisfaction with credit card issuers by examining six factors: interaction; credit card terms; billing and payment; rewards; benefits and services; and problem resolution. Overall satisfaction is at a record-high of 778 on a 1,000-point scale in 2014, surpassing the previous high of 767 in the 2013 study. Furthermore, nearly every issuer measured in the study saw an increase in customer satisfaction over the past 12 months:
American Express, which ranked highest in each of the eight years since the study’s inception in 2007, and Discover each achieve a score of 819. However, the two companies attain the same high level of customer satisfaction using very different business models.
American Express offers 21 cards aimed at different customer segments—some with annual fees and some without—and an array of reward options ranging from cash-back to travel rewards. Its customers tend to be more affluent, spend more and are less likely to carry a balance than customers of other card issuers. Discover’s strategy focuses on a single card with cash-back rewards and no annual fees. Discover serves a broad customer base and offers tools to help its customers manage their spending and debt, and provides its cardholders their credit score free of charge.
“This is really a tale of two very different credit card companies that both excel at customer interactions,” said Jim Miller, senior director of banking services at J.D. Power. “American Express and Discover provide great personal service when customers call in and also make it easy for customers to manage their accounts online as well as by using mobile apps.
“The market is ultracompetitive and credit card companies are using reward programs to make their card more attractive. However, layering on rewards is not the key to satisfied customers, rather it’s understanding your customers, knowing what motivates them and aligning rewards and benefits to their needs.”
Data from three fielding waves of the 2014 J.D. Power Credit Card Satisfaction StudySM finds that the percentage of credit card customers ‘switching’ their primary card has increased significantly over the past year. More specifically, there is a significant increase in the percentage of customers opening a new credit card account (46% vs. 41% in 2013).
The increase is driven by ‘revolvers’ (customers that typically pay less than their total monthly balance), who cite ‘rewards’ and ‘lower interest rates’ as their primary reasons for switching.
With the competition for capturing ‘share-of-spend’ increasing, it is important for credit card issuers to improve the customer experience in an effort to improve loyalty. One key focus area is ‘rewards’, which have become a key driver of both acquisition and spending habits. In response, issuers must provide attractive offerings, market them effectively and ensure that their customers are aligned into the appropriate programs and card products. Additionally, the creation and marketing of successful rewards programs may also improve acquisition metrics by enticing competitor customers to switch their primary card.
The full 2014 J.D. Power Credit Card Satisfaction StudySM, including data from all four fielding waves, releases in August, 2014.
Data from waves 1-3 of the 2014 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study finds that industry satisfaction (776 on a 1,000-point scale) has increased significantly since the 2013 study was published last August (767).
This continues a trend seen in other 2014 Financial Services studies conducted by J.D. Power – the Retail Banking, Full-Service Investor and Self-Directed Investor studies all saw significant improvements in customer satisfaction.
The complete Credit Card Satisfaction Study, including all four waves of data collection, publishes on August 26, 2014.
Early 2014 performance indicators are encouraging for credit card issuers, as customer satisfaction is on track to reach its highest level since the inception of the J.D. Power Credit Card Satisfaction StudySM in 2007. And while the Target data breach may have impacted consumer willingness to make electronic purchases, data finds that issuers can use ‘attractive’ rewards offerings to drive higher levels of personal credit card spend.
As expected, customer perceptions of reward attractiveness vary based on their preferences, which are driven by customer demographics and psychographics. For example, comparing two airline co-branded credit cards may show significantly different demographic profiles. One of the cards may frequently attract customers that are younger, less affluent, and less educated, while the other tends to attract older customers that have multiple children living in their household.
Understanding these segmentation differences (i.e., life style, life stage, hobbies/interests, spending habits, etc.) can help issuers design more appealing reward programs. If an issuer determines that a specific airline credit card attracts customers who frequently travel internationally, the issuer could add rewards associated with foreign travel or potentially partner with a hotel chain to allow additional earning opportunities. Another example is a bank-branded card that attracts sports enthusiasts, in which case a credit card issuer could add access to sporting events as a redemption option or partner with leading online ticket retailers to allow customers to pay for tickets using rewards.
Lastly, educating customers on the details of rewards programs is critical in order to maximize the impact on spend. And while it is important to inform customers about all program terms (as indicated in the chart below), lack of awareness regarding the types of rewards available has the greatest individual impact.
Credit card issuers need to ensure that proactive outreach campaigns directed at current customers fit the evolving ‘digital world’. Failure to do so may not yield a positive return on the resource expenditures associated with customer communications.
Data from the 2013 Credit Card Satisfaction Study finds that nearly half (46%) of credit card customers did not read/use the most recent proactive communication they received from their issuer, thereby pointing to a potential ‘waste’ of resources spent by card issuers.
However, study findings show that the method used to deliver communications may have a positive impact on whether customers choose to read/use the information. For example, customers are most likely to read/use information provided electronically (emails and text messages), and are least likely to read/use information delivered by standard mail.
Issuers should consider revisions to their communication strategies, focusing on digital delivery of messages. This may also require issuers to rethink the content of their messaging and focus on delivering information in a more concise manner.
Problem prevention should be a focus area for all credit card issuers. Analysis of data from the 2013 Credit Card Satisfaction Study finds that when customers experience a problem, overall satisfaction and customer retention metrics decline significantly.
Preventing the occurrence of problems may also help reduce operational costs. For every 1-percentage-point reduction in problem incidence, issuers may be able to save nearly $230,000 for every 1 million cardholders.
Issuers should consider the implementation of a problem tracking or problem management systems. Problem tracking provides continual analysis of problem-related customer contacts, potentially helping issuers identify and prioritize processes that can minimize the occurrence of problems. Problem management may include multiple inputs, such as problem contact data, survey data and employee feedback, and is designed to guide issuers on the development of systems to both prevent problems from occurring, and to maximize the effectiveness of resolving problems that do occur.