U.S. Airline Customer Satisfaction at Six-Year High

The most recent data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) shows increased satisfaction with commercial airline service--more than at any time during the last five years, an indication consumers' security concerns have made them more tolerant of delays.

The airline industry improved its ACSI score by 8% (from 61 to 66) from a year ago, the only time airlines have improved since the survey's inception in 1994. All the major airlines, in fact, showed improvement.

Southwest Airlines topped the list by a significant margin, with a score of 74, although the category of "all others" made up of smaller airlines scored 72. The biggest improvement came from Northwest Airlines, which saw its score jump 16%.

In addition to airlines, ACSI's first quarter 2002 report measured customer satisfaction for energy utilities, telecommunication companies, broadcast and cable/satellite television, parcel delivery and express mail services, the U.S. Postal Service, newspaper publishing, hotels, hospitals, the motion picture industry and healthcare insurance.

Energy utilities up slightly

Energy utilities showed collective improvement of nearly 6%, while telecom went up slightly. Other industry scores decreased, with cable and satellite television dropping nearly 5%. The highest overall industry score for any industry measured during this cycle of the survey, 79, went to the parcel delivery and express mail services.

Improved customer satisfaction, combined with growing disposable personal income, implies more consumer spending, according to Claes Fornell, professor of business and director of the University of Michigan Business School's National Quality Research Center, which compiles and analyzes the quarterly ACSI data.

"Even though stock prices of the most widely held companies are down substantially for the year and the broader market indexes are in negative territory, companies that have highly satisfied customers tend to be relatively sheltered from a market fall in stock prices," Fornell said.

The index is produced by a partnership of the business school, ASQ and CFI Group of Ann Arbor, MI. It is supported in part by Market Strategies Inc., a major corporate sponsor.

For more information on the survey or the most recent results, visit www.theacsi.org.

USPS Uses Baldrige To Pick Supplier Award Winners

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has named six suppliers "the best of the best" in delivering superior products and services. Keith Strange, USPS vice president of purchasing and materials, says the award selection process mirrors the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award process.

The winners are 911 Air Cargo Inc., Austin, TX; Foth & Van Dyke and Associates, Green Bay, WI; Hardy Instruments Inc., San Diego, CA; Rand-Whitney Container LLC, Newtown, CT; PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, Arlington, VA; and Compaq Computer Corp., Greenbelt, MD.

In 2001, USPS spent more than $9.5 billion with 25,600 suppliers. Of that number, 1,850 did sufficient business with USPS--$500,000--to be eligible to participate in the award program.

ISO Committee To Study Its Work's Market Relevance

The International Organization for Standardization's (known as ISO) conformity assessment committee, CASCO, is conducting a survey to obtain information on the market relevancy of its work.

JCAHO and Quality Forum To Give Patient Safety Awards  

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) and the National Quality Forum (NQF) have announced the establishment of the John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety Awards. Eisenberg led the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality until his death in March.

Up to four awards will be presented each year, one to recognize individual lifetime achievement and three in the categories of advocacy, system innovation and research. This year's ceremony will be at the NQF annual meeting Oct. 1-2 in Washington, DC.

Nomination forms are available at either www.jcaho.org or www.qualityforum.org or by calling 630-792-5800. Questions can be e-mailed to EisenbergAward@jcaho.org. Nominations must be received at JCAHO, One Renaissance Blvd., Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181, by July 15.

New Software Consortium Launched, To Focus on Quality

Major software companies, government agencies and academics have launched a consortium to find ways to make software more dependable and secure.

Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh says Sustainable Computing Consortium's founding members include Alcoa, Cisco Systems, Merck, Microsoft Corp., NASA, Pfizer and Raytheon Co. William Guttman, a professor of economics and technology at Carnegie Mellon, is director.

Among other tasks, the group intends to develop specifications so buyers and sellers will have a uniform way to measure software quality. Guttman says studies conclude defective software cost businesses $175 billion worldwide last year because of lost productivity and that 45% of computer downtime results from software glitches.

URAC Approves New Standards  

URAC, also known as the American Accreditation Healthcare Com-mission, has approved new disease management standards.

Developed by representatives of healthcare organizations, providers and other experts, the standards are designed to promote best practices in care management strategy for individuals with chronic diseases.

The standards emphasize evidence based practice relationships with providers, along with consumer education and shared decision making.

The new standards are available to accredit standalone organizations and programs offered by integrated medical organizations and by health plans.

For more information on the standards, contact Liza Greenberg at 202-216-9010.

U.S. Airline Customer Satisfaction at Six-Year High

by the numbers

2,936 Total number at AQC.

354 International registrants at AQC (includes Canada).  

40 Countries represented at AQC.  

9 ASQ World Partners at AQC.

BENCHMARKING'S VALUE. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of CEOs, fast growth companies that use a benchmarking database to measure business performance against their peers are growing considerably faster and are much more productive than those that do not.


SHINGO PRIZE. The deadline to submit intent to apply forms for the 2002 Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing will be June 7. Achievement reports must be received by July 1, with site visits slated for Sept. 1 to Nov. 22. This year for the first time, all sites receiving visits will be recognized as finalists.


ANSI AWARDS. Nominations for the American National Standards Institute's (ANSI) 2002 leadership awards are due July 12. The awards will be presented at ANSI's annual conference Oct. 15 in Washington, DC. Details on the nomination process and conference are available at www.ansi.org.

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