The University of Michigan’s annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) was released this week, and its top line is that “customer satisfaction with the goods and services that Americans buy reached an all-time high in the fourth quarter of 2006,” and that “satisfied consumers will continue to prop up the economy, driving consumer spending growth of between 3.5% and 4.1% for the first quarter of 2007.”The study found that supermarkets improved slightly, up 1 percent in aggregate to 75. Florida-based Publix, which consistently ranks at the highest scores, reached a new high, and improved 2.5 percent to 83. Publix is partly employee-owned, which coupled with their high level of service reinforces just why they are ranked number one. Supervalu drops 4 percent to 74 probably due to its acquisition of Albertson’s stores. Note: Albertson’s had been a poor performer in the survey before being acquired, and its less satisfied customers surely have an impact on Supervalu’s score. Leading the industry once again is Costco, which rose 2.5 percent to 81, its highest score ever and one of the highest in all of ACSI.
Of the 13 industries measured in the fourth quarter, nine show improvements, two are unchanged and two register declining scores. Supermarkets, gasoline service stations, specialty retail stores, health and personal care stores, commercial banks, life and health insurance, and e-commerce retailers and brokerages are all up — from 1.4 percent (for supermarkets and specialty retailers) to 5.9 percent (for health insurance).
As with any survey, the ACSI gives us a snapshot of a defined moment in time. And on the surface, these numbers would indicate that we are moving back to loving our supermarkets; however, with the food product-safety recalls of the past couple of weeks the jury is still out. Supermarkets, as well as all food retailers, must find a better way of communicating and eliminating food safety issues — otherwise our confidence in these retailers will fall dramatically.