What makes you happiest? Your TV — and here’s why

By | June 19th, 2013

Jessica Beeman paid $779 for her 50-inch TV, a purchase she was pleased with, until one day “it just stopped” working. And then she wasn’t.

“We didn’t do anything to it,” she says. “It won’t turn on. The red power button light blinks over and over.”

At the time, I had no idea how rare her complaint was — and how fleeting. I asked her to send me the documentation on the busted household appliance. But within hours, Beeman reported back.

“They fixed it,” she told me. “All for free.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised. The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), one of the most authoritative surveys on service, suggests the TV and video players category gets the highest grades when it comes to customer satisfaction.

Consumers awarded the entire industry an 86 out of a possible 100 points. Wow.

That answers the question of which consumer product or service you’re likely to be happiest with (your TV) and why I don’t get that many complaints from angry TV owners.

But let’s dig a little deeper. What other kind of buys will make you happy — and why?

Here are the top categories when it comes to satisfaction.

Televisions and Video Players/Recorders (86)
Automobiles and Light Vehicles (84)
Soft Drinks (84)
Personal Care and Cleaning Products (83)
Food Manufacturing (83)
Internet Retail (83)

I can personally vouch for this list, as a consumer advocate. I almost never get complaints about TVs, as I already mentioned. Cars? Hardly a peep. I don’t think I’ve ever received an angry email about a soft-drink purchase or hair gel. The only category I sometimes hear about is Internet retail, but it’s usually a third-tier company offering an already questionable product.

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But what is it about TVs that makes you feel so … satisfied?

In answering that question, it’s important to separate cable services from the TV. Americans are not at all happy with their subscription TV services, which received a cumulative score of 68 from the ACSI.

I think the truth might be much simpler: TVs and video recorders are a proven technology in a mature business. The industry has managed to squeeze most of the defects out of its manufacturing process. It’s also highly competitive, so if customers like Beeman don’t like their flatscreen TV from manufacturer A, they can buy virtually the same device from another company at the same price.

With the other categories, it may be an overstatement to say we’re “happy” with those purchases. After all, an 83 out of 100 is a low “B” if you were in school. Mom would not be pleased if you brought home a report card full of 83s now, would she? Not mine.

My kids might put it another way: They’d say those industry categories “suck less.”

Certainly, for some of these businesses, they’re just in the right place at the right time. I mean, who’s going to feel ripped off by a can of cola? Or by a box of cereal? But in another sense, it illustrates how little effort a company must exert to make its customers happy.

Beeman’s TV is a great example. The manufacturer responded to her desperate phone call quickly. It even gave her a special “executive” number to call if she had any further questions. It fixed the defective device quickly and without any hassle.

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Taking care of your customer. Who thought it would be that simple?

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