Using a quarterly panel of consumers that answer a full menu of questions about a brand from perceived quality to customer’s complaints, the ACSI comes up with a baseline number to compare overall satisfaction. For the athletic footwear category, the baseline satisfaction number is up three points over last year. Nike has added two points; Reebok has added three points and all other brands have also added three points over the past year. Footwear was one of the only categories to grow in this quarter’s report.
“Looking at the sector scores themselves, satisfaction with non-durables rose by 0.9% from last year - an improvement driven largely by more satisfied customers for beverages, apparel and athletic shoes,” said Professor Claes Fornell Director, National Quality Research Center, University of Michigan Business School. Companies that, in one form or another, sell sweets or alcoholic beverages also have higher satisfaction scores. This is consistent with the notion that when people are anxious, as suggested by the low consumer confidence numbers, they appear to take a bit more comfort in inexpensive pleasures such as sweets and alcohol.”
Major beer brands measured by the ACSI saw minimal increases over last year. The same is true with non-alcoholic brands with the exception of Coca-Cola. It tracked a 4.9% increase year-to-year.
Fornell believes that the ACSI and overall customer satisfaction is different from consumer confidence. Customer satisfaction, he believes will drive sales in a category.
“Although consumer confidence, as measured both by the University of Michigan and by the Conference Board, has deteriorated considerably, this has not been the case for customer satisfaction,” he states. “While troublesome in its own right, declining confidence has not translated into materially less spending or lower satisfaction with the products and services bought. Clearly, customer satisfaction is different from consumer confidence. A person can feel less confident about the state of the economy and yet be more satisfied with his or her automobile, sneakers or tax accountant. The reverse is probably true as well. Is it consumer utility, as measured by ACSI, or confidence about the state of the economy that drives consumer purchase decisions? The empirical evidence suggests that utility is a more powerful predictor.”