Heinz leads in customer satisfaction index

by Jeff Gelski
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ANN ARBOR, MICH. — The H.J. Heinz Co. scored 89 out of 100 to lead all food manufacturers in third-quarter scores for the American Customer Satisfaction Index (A.C.S.I.). The Quaker Oats Co. was second with an 87. Food manufacturers overall averaged out to a score of 83, up 2.5% from the previous quarter.

Selling non-core business units, including several operations in Europe, and focusing on core products helped Pittsburgh-based Heinz, according to ACSI researchers.

"Financially, Heinz has done fairly well, too," they said. "During the past fiscal year, when many companies saw little growth, Heinz’s revenue went up by 12%. Its stock price has also held up much better than the market."

In contrast, The Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., saw it’s A.C.S.I. score drop 4% to 80. Researchers blamed the Campbell satisfaction drop on high prices and not on product quality.

"The company has also begun to feel the economic effects of lower satisfaction, with sales growth of only 1.7% over the past year," researchers said. "But, similar to Heinz, Campbell seems to be shifting to a heavier concentration on core business, selling premium chocolate maker Godiva in 2008.

"With the cost of food ingredients dropping, Campbell should be able to rebound in customer satisfaction if some of those savings are passed on to the consumer."

The A.C.S.I. is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. The A.C.S.I. evaluates about 200 companies in 44 industries and government agencies. The A.C.S.I. overall score in the third quarter dropped 0.1% to 75.

"The good news is that there has not been a collapse in customer satisfaction, but rather that the slide in A.C.S.I. might be flattening," said Dr. Claes Fornell, Ph.D., founder of the A.C.S.I. and professor of business administration at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. "The bad news is that customer satisfaction will not continue to aggregate consumer spending as much as it used to. Households are strapped for cash, have little savings and credit is tight.

"But for individual companies, customer satisfaction actually matters even more in a recession. Now is the time to make sure customers don’t leave and that margins don’t evaporate."

The Ross School of Business produces the A.C.S.I. in partnership with the American Society for Quality and CFI Group.

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