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MILWAUKEE - Customer satisfaction among Americans hit a nine-year high in 2003, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index produced through a partnership of the University of Michigan Business School, the American Society for Quality, and the international consulting firm CFI Group. The score for supermarkets was slightly down, with Publix coming again once again as the top-rated food retailer.
The overall index, which is determined through customer interviews measuring factors such as customer expectations, perceived quality, perceived value, customer complaints and customer retention, rose to 74 in 2003 -- a 0.3 percent increase over 2002. Among retailers, the index rose to 75, which was a 0.5 percent increase over 2002. The supermarket sector scored 74, a 1.3 percent decrease from last year.
For the 10th straight year, Publix Super Markets led the nation's supermarkets with an 82 rating. Supervalu Inc. came in second with a score of 77, followed by Albertsons and Winn-Dixie at 73. Among warehouse stores, Costco Wholesale notched an 80 vs. a 77 for Sam's Club.
With an industry average of 84, online retailers did much better than stores. Amazon.com scored a survey-leading 88 while auction site eBay hit 84.
Target led discount stores with 77, but Wal-Mart slipped to 75, sharply below its 80 rating in 1994. Despite emerging from bankruptcy in 2003, Kmart again trailed the discount stores with a 70.
Criticized for contributing to obesity, fast-food chains scored 74, their highest rating ever. The biggest gains were Pizza Hut (up 7 percent to a 75) and McDonald's (up 5 percent to 64, but still the worst rating in the industry.)
The entire retail list can be viewed at http://www.theacsi.org/fourth_quarter.htm#sup.