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    Customer Satisfaction Slips for Retail

    University of Michigan report rates retailers, including c-stores and gas stations.

    ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Customer satisfaction with the retail sector took a slight fall in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to a just-released report by the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

    Retailers tracked by the report include c-stores and gas stations, department and discount stores, specialty retail stores, supermarkets, and health and personal care stores; all together, they slipped 0.3 percent to 74.2 on ACSI's 100-point scale.

    While c-stores weren't singled out in the ACSI summary, competitive channels were: customer satisfaction with department and discount stores for 2007's holiday shopping season reached its lowest level since 2001, sinking 1.4 percent to a score of 73. Discount giant Wal-Mart took an especially sharp turn south, plummeting 6 percent to its all-time low of 68, which is "well below the industry average," according to ACSI. Wal-Mart also scored lowest in the industry for customer service.

    "Competing on price is no longer enough to offset lagging quality," the report stated.

    Meanwhile, other competitive channels saw some positive change in customer satisfaction. Supermarkets were up 1.3 percent to 76, the highest level in 14 years, "despite the recent rise in food prices," according to ACSI. As in past years, the Publix chain continued to lead its sector and most other retailers with a score of 83. (Barnes & Noble was another retailer that scored 83 on the customer satisfaction scale.)

    Deep discounter Dollar General was recorded for the first time by ACSI with "a strong score of 78, providing customers with a wide variety of merchandise in a reasonably small store space at super discount prices."

    In addition to measuring customer satisfaction at retail, ACSI also measures finance, insurance and e-commerce every fourth quarter. For all goods and services that Americans bought in fourth quarter 2007, the index fell to 74.9, down 0.4 percent to its lowest score of 2007.


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