Published on: February 17, 2009The University of Michigan’s quarterly American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is out this morning, and reports that despite the recession, “customer satisfaction with the goods and services that Americans buy improved in the fourth quarter of 2008,” climbing to 75.7 on the ACSI’s 100-point scale, up 0.9 percent from the previous quarter.”
Relevant excerpts from the report:
• “Customer satisfaction with the retail sector, which includes department and discount stores, specialty retail stores, supermarkets, gas stations, and health and personal care stores, gains 1.3 percent to 75.2.”
• “Supermarkets are unchanged with an ACSI score of 76 even though food prices remain high. Publix is on top with a score of 82, the fifteenth straight year the supermarket chain has led the category. Safeway gains 4 percent to 75, its highest score since 2002. The chain is upgrading stores to its new Lifestyle format featuring more square footage for expanded offerings of organic food and other merchandise.”
• “Discount store giant Wal-Mart has mixed results, falling 4 percent for its supermarket business to an ACSI score of 68, well below the industry average, but rising 3 percent for its non-grocery discount business to 70. Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club also rises 3 percent to 79.”
• “Deep discount store Dollar General drops 4 percent to score of 75, not from a decline in service, but from a migration of a higher socio-economic group of consumers to the retailer – another effect of the recession – a group that tends to be harder to please.”
• “Among specialty retail stores, Costco is up 3 percent to join Barnes & Noble at 83 for the best score in the category.”
• “The ACSI score for e-commerce falls 2.0 percent to 80.0. Online retail declines 1.2 percent to 82, driven mostly by drops for Amazon and eBay. But with a small dip, Amazon (-2% to 86) remains the second highest scoring firm of all companies in this release.”
The analysis released with the scores notes that “close to the end of the 2001 recession, an uptick in ACSI signaled that a rebound in the economy was near. But as the current recession has deepened, consumer behavior has changed much more than in earlier economic slowdowns. Consumer spending has continued to weaken while savings have gone up, suggesting that at least for the short term there will be less revenue for sellers and more pressure on profit margins and for cost reductions … Customer satisfaction becomes even more important to individual companies, as they need to prevent customer defections and compete for shrinking dollars.”
- KC's View:
- To be honest, I find these results a little surprising. There seems to be so much public discontent out there, it is a little strange to see a study suggesting that consumers actually may be more satisfied with many retailers than they were just a few months ago. (There aren’t many other institutions about which one could say that.) That’s a good sign for retailers…and a public trust that, in many ways, retailers need to re-earn every day.
It also suggests that if people actually had more money, they’d be willing to spend at least some of it with the retailers they trust. So maybe there’s a light at the end of the economic tunnel after all.