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    Customer Satisfaction Still Strong: ACSI

    Americans’ Satisfaction with the goods and services they buy stayed strong in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

    Americans’ Satisfaction with the goods and services they buy stayed strong in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The index declined just 0.1 percent from the previous quarter to 75.9 on its 100-point scale, and was much higher than it was before the recession hit, and also slightly higher than the year-ago period.

    “As long as unemployment remains high and credit tight, it is difficult to see how we can get to a sustainable pace of consumer spending growth,” noted Prof. Claes Fornell, head of the ACSI and author of “The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference.” “But it is not all bad: the ‘will to spend’ is evidenced by high customer satisfaction. The issue is whether or not consumers have the ‘means to spend.’ The recent news about the decline in unemployment and the rise in manufacturing hiring may not only lead to more people working, but may also dampen the fear of job loss. If so, the means to spend will face less of a hurdle.”

    As the stock market rebounded in 2009, companies with favorable ACSI scores saw their stocks increase by an average of 75 percent, while stock prices for those with falling ACSI scores rose 22 percent over the same period.

    Customer satisfaction with the retail sector, which encompasses department and discount stores, specialty retail stores, supermarkets, gas stations, and health and personal care stores, rose 1.3 percent to an ACSI score of 76.2.

    Among department and discount stores, Target posted a gain of 4 percent to log a score of 80, just behind top-rated Nordstrom, which rose 4 percent to an all-time high of 83. Supermarkets saw no change for a third consecutive year, with an ACSI score of 76, although food prices dropped after two years of big increases. Publix retained the lead it has held since 1994: the grocer jumped nearly 5 percent to 86, its highest score ever. Safeway, however, decreased 4 percent in the wake of a large-scale makeover of its store base, to a score of 72.

    Additional supermarket scores were 78 for Kroger, an increase of 1.3 percent; 77 for Supervalu, up 4.1 percent; 76 for Whole Foods, a rise of 1.3 percent; 74 for Winn-Dixie, representing 1.4 percent growth; and 71 for Walmart, a jump of 4.4 percent. All other supermarkets logged an average score of 78, a decline of 1.3 percent from last year.

    The ACSI is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. It is updated quarterly with new measures for different sectors of the economy replacing data from the prior year. The overall ACSI score for a given quarter factors in scores from over 200 companies in 44 industries, as well as from government agencies over the previous four quarters. The index was developed at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor and is produced by ACSI LLC. For more information, visit www.theacsi.org.

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