American Express Co. came close to reclaiming its once highly touted crown in J.D. Power’s credit-card customer satisfaction ranking, but lost again to Discover Financial Services.
Amex’s score rose five points from a year ago to 825 on the survey’s 1,000-point scale, according to results released Thursday. Discover Financial Services, which wrested away the lead spot last year, slipped one point to 827. Lenders often cite their J.D. Power rankings as proof of competitive strength.
Amex slid to second place last year for the first time since the survey began in 2007 as the company grappled with the loss of some of its biggest co-brand partners -- Costco Wholesale Corp. and JetBlue Airways Corp. Amex Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Chenault has since shuffled management and started a new global marketing-operations unit to accelerate revenue growth and attract new business.
“It’s hard to be everything to all people and to have that affluent or prestigious brand,” said Jim Miller, senior director of banking services at J.D. Power. As Amex moves to attract a broader customer base, Miller said he’ll be watching to see if it will “impact the halo that’s been around that brand for so long.”
Overall customer satisfaction reached a record in this year’s survey as credit-card lenders sweetened rewards, reduced fees and sought to improve services amid increased competition. Eight of the 10 lenders included in the survey posted increases, with the average score for the industry climbing by six points to 796.
“The Discover team has worked incredibly hard to meet the evolving needs of our customers, and we believe that our 100 percent U.S.-based customer service representatives makes a real difference in the experience our cardmembers have,” Roger Hochschild, Discover’s president and chief operating officer, said in an e-mailed statement.
JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s score fell below the industry average for the first time since 2010. The company has been revamping its website, which should help improve results as customers adapt to the changes, Miller said.
Some of its rivals gained ground by spending more on rewards, Miller said. In contrast, “Chase has been smart, from a business perspective, on not making it all about the value of the rewards,” he said.
A representative from Chase didn’t have an immediate response when reached by phone. Marina Norville, a spokeswoman for Amex, said the company has a strong track record in customer service “and the overall increase in our score highlights that we continue to deliver for our customers.”
Citigroup Inc., the world’s largest credit-card issuer, ranked next-to-last for the fourth consecutive year. The bank acquired the Costco co-brand portfolio from Amex in June and launched its new Costco Anywhere Visa card that month. Costco customers have flooded the retailer’s Facebook page with complaints about lengthy caller wait times and trouble activating accounts.
Jennifer Bombardier, a spokeswoman for Citigroup, said the bank “continues to make significant progress improving the customer experience, especially in digital channels.”
The credit-card survey asked about terms, incentives, billing and payments, interaction, benefits and services, and problem resolution. Discover and Amex took the top two spots in all categories, Miller said. Responses from more than 20,000 credit-card customers were included in the study, which was conducted from September to May.