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Which Companies Have the Best Customer Service?

Index rankings reflect consumer satisfaction

Q. It seems most companies I deal with provide a poor customer experience. How do I find businesses that get it right?

A. Check the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), affiliated with the University of Michigan. Since 1994, it has measured customer satisfaction of products and service of more than 225 companies in 47 industries.

See also: How to get live customer service.

Rankings on a scale from 0 (worst) to 100 points (best) — measuring customer expectations, perceived quality and value, customer complaints and loyalty — are based on annual interviews of more than 70,000 U.S. consumers.

You can check scores by company name or industry. Since the inception of the index, overall customer satisfaction hit its lowest point in early 1997, peaked in mid-2009 and has been sliding since.

Some standout companies, based on the most recent ACSI report: Florida-based Publix is the highest-rated supermarket, with a score of 84 — the chain has managed to hold the top slot for 16 consecutive years; Southwest is the top airline (81); Barnes & Noble and Costco are the best specialty retailers, both with scores of 82; Nordstrom (82) edges out Kohl's by one point as the best department store; Amazon (87) takes highest Internet retailer honors; and Charles Schwab rates as the best Internet brokerage firm (80).

Another reliable source about the customer experience, of course, is Consumer Reports, whose product and company ratings are based on its own independent testing and detailed surveys of more than 1 million consumers each year. Many Consumer Reports rankings are available only to subscribers, but you can find print issues at most libraries.

Also of interest: Know when to quit seeking resolution. >>

Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer and health issues.

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