Results of Businessweek’s fourth annual survey of customer satisfaction reflect a growing trend by companies to recognize the empowerment of buyers. Customers have purchasing advantages that include access to information about competitive prices and features on popular products. Some industry analysts refer to the current trend as the ‘age of the customer’ to reflect the importance of customer service in a competitive market.

Companies are incorporating Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) technology in an attempt to learn as much as possible about consumer motivations and preferences. By capturing and analyzing feedback from customer groups, companies hope to learn improved methods of satisfying customers.

1.)    L.L. Bean

A lenient policy on shipping costs at L.L. Bean lets customers who use the company’s credit card pay nothing to ship purchases or returns of outdoor clothing. The company closed its call center to let employees handle orders from home.

2.)     USAA

USAA earned second place on the list by using telephone technology to accept payments. Customers can take a picture of a check and use an app to submit it. The company plans to continue adding convenient bank transfer processing.

3.)     Apple

Apple responded to customers’ impatience for waiting in a store checkout line and instituted roving clerks who make the sale immediately. In addition, it has provided a “Genius Bar”  inside each store to offer expert advice on products. Using an appealing name for the service is likely to make it attractive to customers.

4.)     Four Seasons

A lavish AIG retreat at a luxury hotel created a negative image of the travel industry that led Four Seasons to revise the way it does business. Cross-training now enables employees to switch jobs with others to make sure the customer is served promptly and well.

5.)    Publix Super Market

Doing business with a southern accent placed Publix Super Markets in fourth position on the list. In addition to a policy that includes employee ownership, the company uses inventory software that places orders automatically. Customers found a reduction of 19 percent in unavailable items.

6.)     Nordstrom

Nordstrom won high marks by letting customers shop for goods in any store instead of only at its warehouses.

7.)    Lexus

Lexus lets customers make online appointments for service.

8.)     Ritz-Carlton

Ritz-Carlton reduced operating costs by eliminating management but retained staff who interacted with guests.

9.)     Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble now provides free Wi-Fi access to customers at more than 700 stores.

10.)     Ace Hardware

Ace Hardware used results from its mystery shopping program to give employees more time to help customers.

The customer is king today.

Jennie is a customer service consultant and blogger. She recommends the services of Mindshare and their Voice of the Customer Text Analytics Suite to help your business reach new heights of customer service. Mindshare’s Enterprise Feedback Management technology is designed to capture, analyze, and then report experiential information in a format that is easy for your organization to understand and act upon.

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