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Even though customer satisfaction as measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) has experienced its biggest drop in two years – falling 0.5 percent to 75.3 for the fourth quarter of 2010 on the index’s 0-100 scale – Publix is still tops in this regard.
Customer satisfaction with the overall retail sector fell 1.6 percent to 75.0, mainly because of a big drop for gasoline service stations, which plunged 7.9 percent to 70 after a 20 percent rise in gas prices over the past year. Results for other retail channels were mixed, as higher prices on food and other items lowered satisfaction with supermarkets by 1.3 percent to 75 and health and personal care stores by 1.3% to 77, while ongoing aggressive discounts improved department and discount stores and specialty retailers’ scores for a third consecutive year. These channels rose 1.3 percent to 76 and 78, respectively.
Publix kept its lead among supermarket chains, in spite of a 2 percent drop to an ACSI score of 84. The Lakeland, Fla.-based chain has been first in the category every year since 1994. Whole Foods came next, gaining 4 percent to finish at 79, paced closely by Kroger, which remained unchanged at 78. Supervalu fell below the industry average, dropping 4 percent to 74, where it tied with Safeway, which rose 3 percent. Walmart brought up the rear, unchanged at 71 for the grocery portion of its business.
“While supermarket chains like Publix thrive on the strength of their customer service, Walmart continues to be a place where people shop because of price,” noted Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI and author of The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference.. “Service has a strong impact on customer satisfaction, but low prices coupled with low quality do not.”
Founded at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor, 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. The national index is updated each quarter and factors in scores from more than 225 companies in 45 industries and from government agencies over the previous four quarters.