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

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.

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.

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

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • technomage1

    It really is that simple. Fix things with a minimum of hassle when they go wrong.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Weird story involving an AIRLINE doing preemptive customer service.
    I had booked tickets on UA (of course) to visit family. Fiancee had enough in her account for a reward ticket, and I wanted to link the tickets because I don’t pay baggage fees.

    Somehow, the system could not do this, so I called the “elite” line for assistance, even though my SO doesn’t have status anymore in the hopes that they would help since I still am a warrior of skies. The agent there couldn’t do it either. It was some kind of glitch.

    Two days later, I received an email and a $100 voucher with an explanation that the glitch had been noted and fixed. The $100 was “just in case they try to charge you baggage fees at the airport.”

    That’s right.I couldn’t believe it either.

  • rwm

    Was the voucher actually good for use in baggage check, or was it only good for future airfare?

  • Deborah Orth

    What makes me Happiest!! My spouse & best friend Jimmy and my 2 retired racing Greyhounds Dr. Jake and Ellie Mae Bones!!

  • Alan Gore

    As a business person, I can say that the most satisfied customers are those who shop the industries with the most competition. That’s why in the travel field, hotels are always the easiest to deal with.

    The least competitive industries, like medicine or cable service, are the ones with the worst record of customer service.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    The more monopolistic, the less customer service there is. Utilities, most any government agency you can think of….

  • emanon256

    I want to know why there are 16% of people complaining about their soft drinks? That cracks me up.

    I do have a feeling my aunt would complain about her hair gel if she were surveyed. She switches brands almost monthly with one complaint or another, and then sends the ones she didn’t like to relatives. If I used hair gel, I would have an endless supply thanks to her.

  • emanon256

    Wow, I had the exact opposite experience. I was flying with my SO and we were on the same reservation and I upgraded us with miles. At check in, the computer asked her to pay a $75 fee for the upgrade. I went to the check in desk at the airport and the agent said she had to pay the fee as well. The agent also said she doesn’t understand how my SO requested the upgrade without paying the fee at the time of her request. I explained we were on the same reservation and per the website, she doesn’t have to pay the fee since she is on my reservation, which is why we were never charged it when I requested the upgrade. The agent said our reservation was split. I asked how that could be possible and she didn’t know, but said that there is no way to waive the fee. The only options were to downgrade my SO if she paid the fare difference between what she originally booked and what was available now plus the change fee, or she could pay $75. She suggested that I just pay the $75 and call for a refund later.

    I called the elite line, and was told that all reservations auto-split at 24 hours prior to the flight, and therefore at checkin she was subject to the co-pay on her mileage upgrade, as we were not on the same reservation. I explained that the website states that elites and their companions on the same reservation are not subject to the $75 upgrade fee, and requested a refund. She again re-iterated that all reservations auto-split, so we were not on the same reservation. I asked how this was even fare, as the auto-splitting makes it impossible for anyone to get the published benefit. I was told, and I kid you not, that we should be grateful we got to fly in first class at all.

    I e-mailed after that still asking for a refund, and was told that reservations auto-split at the 24 hours mark so that people get upgraded based on the correct priority, rather than the priority of their traveling companion. I wrote back that we were already upgraded, and we were still split, and that I was charged $75 for something that according to their own website I should have never been charged for. I got a rude response stating that I know for next time.

    I finally disputed the charge on my credit card, and sent in the policy, the receipt showing we were on the same reservation, and my e-mails. The credit card company sided with me, and I have yet to hear from United. If they had sent me a voucher for $75, I would have just shut up and left it alone. This airline has truly gone to crap.

  • KaraJones

    Chris, how come you very pointedly didn’t mention the name of the company with which the OP had such a good experience?

  • bodega3

    NIce, but why weren’t you just going to check the bags in under your tickets? We just did this for my mom who was traveling with us. We had free bag checks with our tickets, but she didn’t, so we just checked them as ours.

  • John Baker

    Unfortunately there’s no “benefit” to customer service in a monopoly to the business. The customer has to do business with the monopoly if they want the product. Customer Service has an expense associated with it and its an easy place for the business (or government) to cut.

    I wish I could get my plates from anywhere other than the BMV. Worst required annual trip!

  • lvswhippets

    I knew your picture was a sighthound. My whippet & family make me the happiest.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    It was Panasonic. The reason I didn’t mention it in the original story is long and complicated, and I don’t want to bore you with it. But kudos to Panasonic for doing the right thing.

  • Raven_Altosk

    We haven’t flown on this itinerary yet, so I’m wondering if they know that the reservations will be split and that’s why they gave me the voucher. Hmmm.

  • Raven_Altosk

    $100 in airline funny money, good for whatever.

  • Raven_Altosk

    That was the plan, but in the past they have hassled me about since the merger b/c we don’t have the same last name. It’s stupid…which is why I always try to link the reservations.

  • bodega3

    I don’t get it. When we checkin online we just put how many bags. Mom’s name tag was on her bag and nobody cares at the airport. They just take the bags. Same when one of the kids travels with us.

  • Deborah Orth

    It is my little girl Ellie Mae Bones she raced at Mystique casino and greyhound track in Dubuque Iowa. She came to us after her racing career ended in 2009. More than once people have asked us if she was a whippet because she is a smaller female. Both of our hounds donate blood at a emergency vet. clinic in Chicago.

  • Deborah Orth

    We have a Pasonic and have been very happy with it

  • emanon256

    Yeah whats up with that? We were on separate reservations another time recently and we approached together and I was checking both bags under my name. The agent called me out on it and asked why I had two bags and she had none. I said we are traveling together, does it really matter? She said we should check one each, that our bag is required to be assigned to our record. The kicker is that when I said that she had to pay to check her bag, and I can check up to 3 for free, so that’s why I wanted to check them under my name, she changed her tune, said she totally understands, and checked them both under my name.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Yeah, same thing happened to us a few months ago, so I’ve been extra cautious.

    UA is just trying to make that cash register ring!

  • Raven_Altosk

    See above. UA has been giving some people grief lately about “oh I have three bags and she has none.”

    I figured if the reservations were linked, it would be less of a hassle. Because I could see us getting to the airport and them being all, “Well he has three and you have none and you’re not linked together so…”

    IDK. Call me paranoid, but I get a little over-thinkish when I travel with the fiancee and the baby now.

    File that under “s**t I’d never thought I’d say”….

  • Mundane Lustrator

    What a cool thing – I didn’t know pets could donate blood.

  • Deborah Orth

    Guidelines usually are the dog must 1st have K-9 universal blood type (similar to our O type) 2nd dog must be between 2 and 8 years old and lastly good must have a temperament that allows the vet techs to safely draw blood usually the neck area. Our greyhounds blood has been used to save the lives of several dogs.