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Top 5 Industries That Bring the Lowest Customer Satisfaction Scores

Financial IQ

Which industries deliver the lowest customer satisfaction scores? If you guessed airlines or cable TV, I’m sorry to disappoint you.

It’s newspapers, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Yep, newspapers.

Take a moment to let that sink in. The very medium that used to bring you me, is the most complained-about business in America. By several points.

Newspapers scored an aggregate 64 out of a possible 100 points, which, as a trained newspaper man myself, I’ve gotta admit is just awful. Not that it would take one to know it, but admitting your own business is a failure — well, that’s not easy.

Newspapers are a perennial bottom-feeders business, in terms of customer satisfaction, with the highest score ever peaking at a pathetic “69,” according to the ACSI.

Is it too late to get my money back for my journalism degree?

The worst of the worst

  • Newspapers: 64
  • Subscription Television Service: 66
  • Airlines: 67
  • Internet Social Media: 69
  • Wireless Telephone Service: 70


If you’re a regular reader of my posts, then you probably know why these industries are here, at least most of them. Airlines are a favorite topic, and if you’ve traveled by plane in the last decade, you know why.

From surly service to outrageous fees, this business has it all. With only a few exceptions, the companies behave as if it’s a race to the bottom, and as if we, their customers, are cargo.

Social media’s problem?

It takes too much without returning. No matter which network you’re using, it sucks all of your personal information and then requires you to learn how to post, tweet or chat.

Wouldn’t it be nice if they made a social network that didn’t require us to hand over our vital statistics and was, you know, easy to use? Wouldn’t it be great if these networks didn’t track your every move, often without you knowing it?

Yeah, same here.

Want to know why people hate their wireless phone service and subscription TV?

I have a ton of cases on my consumer advocacy site that will answer that question. But I’ll bottom-line it for you: onerous contracts, slow customer service, and iffy product, at best. It’s a losing combination.

Worse, many of these businesses are de-facto monopolies, so you have no choice but to use the companies. And they know it.

Newspapers? Really?

Ah, newspapers.

I’m reminded of the last case I mediated, involving a certain newspaper of record and a seemingly intractable delivery problem, which I eventually helped untangle.

I want to believe that the newspaper industry’s real problem can be reduced to simple product delivery issues. But I know better, and so do you.

The idea of a press as a “Fourth Estate,” as Edmund Burke called it, that somehow the news business is a sacred profession — a religion, even, as many of my own colleagues would like to think — died when the first website was published.

The news is now online and democratized. It’s just taken a little while for us to write the physical newspaper’s obituary.

The belief that a newspaper somehow has more credibility than any other form of communication by virtue of someone’s ability to print it is antiquated in the 21st century.

What’s more, the limits of a newspaper — it doesn’t deliver information in real time and relies on editors to tell us what is, and isn’t, “important,” instead of letting you decide — makes many modern-day newspapers a relic.

Smart news organizations will survive. But dead-wood dailies? Probably not.

I hate to say it, but if you want good customer service, don’t look to your newspaper. And be wary of airlines, cell phone companies and subscription TV services. Because the service couldn’t be any worse.

Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate who blogs about getting better customer service at On Your Side. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or send him your questions by email.


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