Slumping Retailers Satisfy Their Customers More

Customer satisfaction with the quality of goods and services by U.S. customers in the retail, finance and e-commerce sectors rose during the last quarter of 2001, offsetting a drop in the first quarter of 2000, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

Falling interest rates, lower prices during the holiday season, increased emphasis on customer service by slumping companies and improvement in the buyer-seller relationship due to Sept. 11 and its aftermath are underlying forces that probably have contributed to the overall ACSI increase, according to Claes Fornell.

Fornell is professor of business and director of the University of Michigan Business School's National Quality Research Center, which compiles and analyzes the ACSI data in partnership with ASQ and Foresee Results, an Internet tracking firm.

Even K-Mart saw improvement, up more than 10% from last year despite the bankruptcy filing that was looming at the time of the survey. K-mart's more upscale discount competitor, Target, scored highest in the department and discount store category with a satisfaction rate score of 77. It was also the most improved with a 5.5% increase over 2000.

Fornell thinks the overall ACSI retail increases bode well for the economy. "As customers become more satisfied with the nation's output of goods and services, they tend to increase their spending," he says. "Corporate revenues from repeat business tend to grow, as well."

Other category top scorers and most improved are:

  • Specialty retail stores: Sam's Club/Wal-Mart in both categories at 78 and 5.4%.

  • Supermarkets: Publix at 81 and Kroger at 5.6%.

  • Fast and carry-out food: Papa John's at 78 and Domino's Pizza at 5.8%.

  • Banks: Wachovia in both categories at 72 and 9.1%.

  • Life insurance: Northwestern Mutual at 78 and Prudential at 7% (note that a listing of "all others" scored 80 in this category).

  • Personal property insurance: State Farm Insurance at 79 and Allstate at 1.3%.

  • E-commerce portals: Yahoo at 73 and America Online at 3.6% (note that "all others" scored 7.5%).

  • E-commerce retail: Amazon at 84 and 1-800-Flowers at 10.1%.

  • Auctions and reverse auctions: Ebay at 82 and Priceline at 4.5%.

  • Brokerages: Charles Schwab at 72 and E*Trade at 0.0 (note that "all others" scored a -7.1% in this category).

More complete wrap-up and analysis of the ACSI data can be found at www.asq.org or on page A2 of the Feb. 19 Wall Street Journal.

bobsledHow NIST Found Itself On a Slippery Slope

Timing of sledding events down to mere milliseconds at the recent Winter Olympics was no problem thanks to experts from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

NIST calibrated the events' timing system against national time standards and loaned special equipment to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee so timing systems could be recalibrated shortly before the opening ceremonies.

The calibration process used electronically controlled shutters activated by global positioning satellite signals to simulate a racer's breaking the infrared light beams at the start and finish lines. The track timer's count was compared to the elapsed time measured by electronic systems directly traceable to the NIST atomic time scale.

Preliminary results indicated the timing system could achieve an accuracy of better than plus or minus half a millisecond.

Employer Group, JCAHO Announce Improvement Efforts

The Leapfrog Group, comprised of many of the United States' largest employers, recently announced its plan to reduce medical errors by pushing hospitals to excel in three areas deemed necessary to promote patient safety:

  • Computerization of doctors' orders, which Leapfrog says could prevent more than a million medication errors annually.

  • Employment of specialized critical care doctors in intensive care units to improve care.

  • Extensive experience in certain medical procedures, which improves survival odds.

The Leapfrog Group believes its effort will save lives and theorizes better care, not cheaper care, will ultimately save money.

The 96 major employers that make up the group include General Electric Co., General Motors, IBM, Boeing, and state and federal agencies. In total, they spend more than $52 billion annually on health benefits for more than 28 million people.

Leapfrog's Web site at www.leapfroggroup.org currently has patient safety information on about 250 hospitals in six geographic regions: Atlanta, California, eastern Tennessee, Minnesota, St. Louis and Seattle/Tacoma/Everett, WA.

The data were obtained by surveying hospitals. The site notes if a hospital surveyed declined to respond to the survey. Leapfrog says it plans to offer the survey to an additional 1,000 or more hospitals in 2002.

 JCAHO seeks improvements
In other healthcare quality news, the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) says that this summer it will release the results of a field review of standards for medication use that have been revised to increase the focus on patient safety.

The review was for hospitals, long-term care facilities and ambulatory care organizations. JCAHO says the review will allow it to assess the potential contributions of the standards to safe medication use, the readiness of organizations to meet the revised standards and ways the standards might be modified to improve applicability.

In addition, Joint Commission Resources, a JCAHO subsidiary, is issuing a call to action for hospitals to submit good practice examples related to patient safety sentinel events, staffing, care of patients and performance improvement.

The examples will be used to establish a good practices subscription database to be introduced online this year. Initially, the database will be limited to hospitals. A $500 fee will be paid to organizations that submit examples included in the database.

For information on criteria for submitting good practices or additional information, visit www.jcaho.org.

ISO Releases New Listing Of Certification Bodies

The sixth edition of the ISO Directory of ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 Accreditation and Certification Bodies has been released by the International Organization for Standardization, known as ISO.

The directory lists 747 certification bodies offering management system auditing and certification/registration services in 97 countries. Full contact details are provided.

The number of certification bodies is up from 726 in 2001. Germany has the most with 86, followed by the United Kingdom, 69; United States, 55; Italy, 46; China/Hong Kong, 41; and Japan, 40.

Entries for 52 national accreditation bodies, which approve certification bodies as competent, are also included.

The directory is available from ISO national member institutes (the American National Standards Institute, www.ansi.org, in the United States) or from the ISO central secretariat at sales@iso.org.

Workflow Coalition Names Global Award Finalists

The Workflow Management Coalition, Giga Information Group and the Workflow and Reengineering International Association announced finalists for their 2001 Global Excellence Awards.

Finalists are Ijet Travel Intelligence, INS-FIPS, McKenna & Cuneo and WorldCom in North America; MSB International, Sodifrance, Taylor Nelson Sofres and Vienna Central Complaint Management in Europe; Reserve Bank of Malawi and Standard Bank of South Africa in Africa and the Middle East; and Nong Shim Seoul and Triumph International Japan in the Pacific Rim.

For additional information, visit www.wfmc.org/information/awards.htm.

by the numbers

30% Percentage of Six Sigma Forum members who are international (outside the United States). The top five countries are India, Canada, Mexico, China and Brazil.

64% Percentage of Six Sigma Forum members who are not members of ASQ.

28% Percentage of Six Sigma Forum members who are Black Belts or Master Black Belts.

866 Number of new international members who have joined ASQ since March 2001. Top three nations were Trinidad and Tobago, Malaysia and Ireland.

249 Number of ASQ sections.

30 Number of ASQ subsections.

The Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE) is calling for papers for the 34th International SAMPE Technical Conference in Baltimore Nov. 4-7. Paper abstracts are due by April 9, 2002, and final technical papers are due July 16, 2002. For information on topics, contact Daun White at 626-331-0616, ext. 609, or go to www.sampe.org.


The International Accreditation Forum Inc. (IAF) is recruiting a corporate secretary to replace the current secretary, Noel Matthews. More information about the position and selection criteria can be found on the news page of the IAF Web site at www.iaf.nu or by e-mailing Matthews at secretary@accreditationforum.com. The deadline for applications is April 10.


KPMG LLP is offering a white paper assessing how organizations are addressing the challenge of bringing insightful and reliable information into strategic decision making. The study surveyed U.S. and European senior executives and major governments. For additional information or to read the full survey report, Achieving Measurable Performance Improvement in a Changing World, visit www.kpmg.com.


The Automotive Industry Action Group published Quality Management Systems--Guidelines for Process Improvements in Health Service Organizations. ASQ's Healthcare Division developed the document, and the International Organization for Standardization, known as ISO, released it. To order a copy, call 248-358-3033.


For the third consecutive year, Marriott International Inc. has been named the most admired company in the lodging industry by Fortune magazine. The ranking is based on a poll of 10,000 executives, analysts and directors who judged companies on innovativeness, employee talent assets, social responsibility, financial soundness, long-term value and quality of products/services. The Ritz-Carlton and Ramada are among Marriott International's brand names.


Software developer Powerway and automobile industry supply chain management consortium Covisant say Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. are joining DaimlerChrysler AG in using Powerway.com for advanced product quality planning (APQP) communication and collaboration with customers and suppliers.


The National Association for Health-care Quality's fellowship application deadline is May 10. For information, visit www.nahq.org/awards/fellow.htm or call 800-966-9392 or 844-375-4720.

Average Rating


Out of 0 Ratings
Rate this article

Add Comments

View comments
Comments FAQ

Featured advertisers