Best and worst combinations of customer and employee satisfaction

Edited by Maurice FitzGerald – Drawing by Peter FitzGerald

Deeper dive into ACSI and Glassdoor data

Following on from last week’s post on the relationship between employee and customer satisfaction, I am now going to provide four different cuts of data, at least one of which should be a major surprise. The four cuts are:

  1. Companies that are in the top 10% for both employee and customer satisfaction.
  2. Companies in the bottom 10% for both.
  3. Companies in the top 20% for customer satisfaction and the bottom 20% for employee satisfaction.
  4. Companies that are in the top 20% for employee satisfaction and the bottom 20% for customer satisfaction.

There is a call to action after the data and surprises.

Data sources, defects and notes

As discussed in last week’s post, there are not many public sources of data on these subjects. The best information I can find on customer satisfaction for large companies selling to US consumers is ACSI. The American Customer Satisfaction Index team gets input from 70,000 consumers on over 300 companies. Some companies, such as Apple and Samsung, have more than one business and there are scores for each.

The only public source of employee satisfaction data I have found for the same companies is Glassdoor. Current and former employees of a company provide an overall rating for their employer. Some companies do try to game Glassdoor and some scores may therefore be overly optimistic. That does not seem likely for the companies at the bottom of the list. Glassdoor covers 600,000 companies, right down to tiny businesses. Very few of them are included in the ACSI research, which concentrates on large companies selling to US consumers only.

Wherever more than one choice was available for a business covered in the tables below, I have selected the most positive available data. I have triple-checked every number, and still welcome any error detection you may like to carry out.

Since the ACSI data is for all of 2016, I have generally used Glassdoor numbers I researched in mid-2016. There are some exceptions where the January 30th 2017 number is better and I have noted those cases. There are also two companies for which the ACSI number for 2016 is not yet available, and I have used the 2015 numbers. Both are in the ‘best of the best’ table below.

Best publicly-available data

If I had a choice, I would far prefer to use customer and employee Net Promoter Scores, but there is no public source for such data at all for eNPS, and public NPS scores have limited company coverage. There is no standard for measuring employee engagement. Most people promoting an employee engagement index seem to be promoting a proprietary methodology, software or consulting services. Yes, they all seem to be able to prove that their index predicts customer satisfaction and financial results, and I believe that this should indeed be the case. An agreed open standard backed by research would be nice.

I suppose I should once again note that some of the companies in the table below do not sell directly to end consumers. Their customers are resellers, brokers or other intermediaries, for whom no satisfaction data is available.


I have used the data in the Excel file that you can find on our resources page here. It is simply a copy of what was on Glassdoor and the ACSI site at the time the data was prepared. The steps I followed were:

  • Rank the 340 ACSI scores from highest to lowest.
  • Establish the ‘Top 20%’ or quintile marks by counting down 68 rows from the top and 68 rows up from the bottom.
  • Repeat for the top and bottom 10%.
  • Use the conditional sorting function in Excel to produce four tables, using various combinations of these ranges.

Here is what this gives as the ranges. Feel free to reproduce these steps to do your own analysis.

ACSI GD blog categories

The best of the best

At the considerable risk of using ‘the D word’, here are the companies that delight both their customers and their employees. These companies are in the top 10% on both the ACSI and Glassdoor rankings.

ACSI GD blog top top

Chick-fil-A’s ACSI position should surprise nobody. It is great to see that they are also in the top 10% of Glassdoor ratings. There is no Glassdoor rating available for Lincoln automobiles on their own, so I have used the overall Ford number. I have also combined Toyota and Lexus, as there is only a single Glassdoor rating for Toyota North America. As noted last week, consumers may be dealing directly with franchise operators, rather than Ford or Toyota employees. Apple has an ACSI score of 80 for its phones, and I have used the overall Glassdoor score for Apple, as no separate number for the PC employees is available. Wegmans and Trader Joe’s ACSI numbers are from 2015. I will update the table as soon as 2016 numbers are available. Subaru Glassdoor rating is for Subaru of America, as of mid-2016.

The bottom 10%

Let’s be optimistic: these are the companies with the greatest improvement opportunities! They are the only companies in the bottom 10% of the 340 businesses for which I have both ACSI and Glassdoor ratings. To be as clear as possible about this, there are 34 businesses in the bottom 10% in each rating system. These are the only ones that are in the lowest 10% in both. Mediacom has had the worst ACSI score in both 2015 and 2016. This positioning of cable TV and ISP providers confirms what Bruce Temkin has found in his research.

The bottom 10%

ACSI rates Windstream and Mediacom for two different businesses, while Glassdoor has a single overall score.

Loved by customers, but…

Here is the list of companies that are in the top 20% of the ACSI ratings, while being in the bottom 20% of the Glassdoor ratings. It is an interesting combination of four companies where cost-control is a constant concern, and two Internet investment firms where the employees have little contact with customers. Since Vanguard is known for strong customer satisfaction, I was surprised to see that employees do not seem to receive the same attention. I certainly accept that this could be a case where the employees are not very happy, but are engaged.

Customer Satisfaction

Employees love working there, but…

This is the category with the big surprises. These companies seem to have the unfortunate combination of happy employees and unhappy customers. Each is in the top 20% of Glassdoor ratings, while being in the bottom 20% of of the ACSI scores. I can find no evidence that any of these companies is gaming the Glassdoor scores. Glassdoor does not allow companies to remove negative reviews. Perhaps a little less happiness might motivate these employees to look at things from more of a customer perspective. Most of the companies seem to have monopolies in their chosen business segments or geographies. Perhaps that makes them care a little less. Other than the airlines, they are also companies where employees have little or no contact with customers, so there is little opportunity for their enthusiasm to become contagious.

Employee satisfaction

Facebook had an ACSI score of 75 in 2015, so would not have been on this list then. I used Consolidated Edison New York for the Glassdoor score.

Conclusion and call to action

Medium- and long-term business success can only be achieved by engaged employees who improve customers’ overall experience with their employers. There is no common standard or public data for employee engagement, so I have used a ‘second-best’ approach. I accept that happy employees are not necessarily productive employees. Companies can do well on Glassdoor because they have great food in the canteen, on-site child care and attractive vacation policies. None of those contributes directly to positive customer outcomes. A happy employee is not necessarily doing positive things for customers.

Companies that have high employee satisfaction but low customer satisfaction will be forced to improve if they can see competitors taking share from them. Some companies have effective monopolies, and probably won’t change quickly. They should bear in mind Willie Pietersen’s words in a Columbia lecture I attended. “Somewhere in the world, somebody has just had an idea that can kill your business.”

As I argued in last week’s blog, if you were to take a clean sheet of paper and brainstorm all the things that can affect customer satisfaction, employee engagement and / or satisfaction would probably be on the list, but not at the top. A railroad company, for example, would be likely to find that on-time arrival of trains and the availability of seats at rush hour matter more to customers than their very occasional contact with an employee. Motivated employees are of course enablers of many other things, such as getting the trains to run on time. The most important thing companies can do is to listen to customers, internalise what they want to see improved, and engage their entire workforce to make it happen.

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Maurice FitzGerald