Find the Best Businesses
Your time is valuable, and there is also value in your sense of well being. So, don't patronize businesses and organizations that make their customers unhappy. That makes sense, right? So, how are you going to discover those businesses?
Web-based communities such as Yelp and Judy's Book have service and business listings for dozens of U.S. cities, and attempt to use the collective wisdom of their user base to make recommendations. My problem with these sites is there is nothing scientific in these ratings, the system can be gamed, these sites will come and go, and the communities reporting in may not be representative of me (or you). It's the online version of the old-fashioned newspaper reporter's “man on the street” method of gathering public opinion on a subject.
A more satisfactory measure of quality businesses and services comes from the research scientists at the National Quality Research Center at the Stephen M. Ross Business School at the University of Michigan. This group has developed the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a national measure of quality from the perspective of the user. ACSI measures 40 industries and companies from airlines, apparel and athletic shoes to specialty retail stores, supermarkets and wireless telephone service.
There's too much data to go into here, but some of the results may surprise you. Barnes and Noble's online service is rated higher in satisfaction by those surveyed than Amazon, although both are above the overall average for Internet retailers. Southwest Airlines is far ahead of its airline competitors in satisfaction, and Samsung leads among cellular phones.
Bonus: You may find valuable investment advice from reading the surveys. According to the ACSI website, customer satisfaction is a leading indicator of company financial performance. Stocks of companies with high ACSI scores tend to do better than those of companies with low scores.