Survey: Customers Rank USAA and American Express as Best Cards for Customer Experience, Industry Merely "Okay"

March 27, 2013

Credit cards are pervasive in today's society, either as an integral part of a wallet, or a daily reminder in your mailbox when you receive direct mail marketing offers for new cards. Whether or not you like your credit card issuer sometimes doesn't seem to matter, given that it's much easier to stay the course and keep the credit cards you're familiar with.

However, sometimes staying the course means putting up with some lousy customer service. This week, the customer experience research and consulting firm Temkin Group released its 2013 Temkin Experience Ratings, which ranks customer experience with a wide variety of industries and companies, giving consumers the opportunity to know whether or not the companies they're using are really treating them well.

In terms of the credit card industry, U.S. customers generally don't feel like they're getting a good deal. While within the credit card industry, customers ranked USAA and American Express as having the best customer experience, it rated the industry merely "Okay" overall.

Temkin's study leveraged the opinions of 10,000 U.S. consumers and looked at 246 companies in 19 different industries, including banks, retailers, hotels, airlines, health plans and computer makers. The survey examined three elements of the customer experience: functional, accessible and emotional. The functional element looks at whether customers feel they can do what they want to do when they interact with a company. The accessibility metric measures the customer's ease of working with a company. The emotional factor rates how the customer feels about their interactions with a company.

The credit card industry ranked tenth overall, with scores ranging from "Poor" to "Good," with the industry average being "Okay," clocking in at 63.6 percent. This ranking puts it slightly below auto dealers, and slightly above software firms, but it trails the top-ranked industry, grocery chains, which earned a 78 percent rating.

In terms of individual companies, USAA and American Express tied for best overall within the industry, with a Temkin Experience Rating of 70 percent. Compared to the other companies in the overall survey, these two ranked at number 89. While the 70 percent just gets these two companies into the "Good" designation, it's a far cry from the top-ranked company Publix, which earned an 84 percent rating.

USAA repeated its number one ranking from 2012, although in 2013 it lost ground and its overall results dropped three percentage points. American Express rose two points, which gave it the ability to move up from its 2012 second place ranking.

HSBC did not fare as well in the rankings, earning the bottom spot with an overall rating of 54 percent, a two-point drop from last year's marks. It was also clearly the worst ranked credit card issuer overall, scoring at the bottom in all three components of the survey, functional, accessible and emotional. Compared to all 264 companies in the survey, it came in at 213.

"USAA and American Express set the pace for customer experience in credit cards while HSBC is a real black sheep in the industry," said Bruce Temkin, managing partner of Temkin Group, in a statement.

Consumers also gave Capital One, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup poor marks, even though all four of these banks made improvements over last year's rankings and Citigroup had the most overall improvement, showing a positive change of eight percentage points. Yet both Citigroup and Capital One did not fare well in the emotional category, and Capital One also had negative ratings in the functional category, when compared to the industry average.

In terms of the categories measured, American Express was the tops in the functional category; Discover was deemed the best in terms of accessibility and USAA won out in the emotional category.

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