The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) reading for the third quarter came in unchanged from the second quarter, at 74.4, though the index continues to hover near its all-time high.The latest reading is 1.6 percent above the year-ago level.The Manufacturing/Nondurable goods sector, which is measured in the third quarter each year and reported on in the fourth, rose 0.6 percent to 82.3, making it the highest scoring sector within the ACSI.
According to the report, the high satisfaction rate in nondurables is due to factors such as products requiring little service either before or after purchase; high numbers of products, brands and purchase alternatives; low buyer-switching costs; high degree of reliability for packaged goods; and relatively stable pricing.
“When it comes to consumer nondurables, there’s a flavor for everyone. Satisfaction tends to be very high because nobody sticks with a product they don’t like and there’s very little cost associated with switching to another brand,” said Professor Claes Fornell, head of ACSI at the University of Michigan.
The food manufacturing sector, which includes products ranging from meats and cheeses to fruits, vegetables and candy, is one of the highest scoring sectors in ACSI.
Heinz, although it had a drop of four percent, remains the sector leader with a score of 87. Hershey, Kraft and Mars are not far behind, all tied at 86. Kellogg and Sara Lee both increased 5 percent to 85. Sara Lee sold some of its less successful product lines like Bumble Bee tuna and Chock full o’ Nuts Coffee to focus on its core business. Kellogg was likely boosted by the addition of a new line that focuses on healthier alternatives and a health-awareness marketing campaign.
Pepsi and other soft drinks ranked high in ACSI, thanks to differentiated products. The industry was up 1 percent from last year. Cadbury Schweppes, which makes 7Up and Dr Pepper, was up 4 percent to 86, tied with Pepsi, which had risen 5 percent. Coca-Cola dropped 2 percent to a five-year low of 82. In terms of ACSI, the two leading cola brands have never been further apart.
For the fourth quarter, the ACSI projects spending growth of 2.6 percent to 3.2 percent. The slowdown in the economy usually means a slowdown in consumer spending, but factors like interest rates no longer going up, oil prices going down, the stock market doing well and high customer satisfaction may mean that it won’t weaken. And while falling home prices may also have an effect on spending, overall, spending should not be much different for the rest of the year.
The ACSI is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to U.S. consumers. The overall ACSI score for a quarter is based on scores from 200 companies in 43 industries and from government agencies over the previous four quarters.The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the American Society for Quality and CFI Group produced the index.
For a complete list of scores, go to www.theacsi.org.