After falling dramatically in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, 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 experience management specialist Qualtrics 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 per cent between 2019 and 2021.
However, the recovery is not equal across industries. Businesses that provided Covid-19 lockdown essentials — such as 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 analysed.
NPS is a metric used by organisations 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 per cent of 2019’s level), airlines (-4 per cent of 2019’s level), consumer payments, including credit cards and mobile payment services (-1 per cent of 2019’s level) and hotels (7 per cent 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,” notes said Bruce Temkin, head of the XM Institute. “But after the initial interruption to our lives turned into a multi-year ordeal, it’s no surprise that the organisations in the best shape are the ones that pivoted quickly by responding to ongoing changes in their customers’ needs and expectations. 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.”