You needn't have majored, or even minored, in business to understand that if a customer is happy with the service he or she is getting they will return to the store they are pleased with and buy more stuff. And then repeat as necessary. That simple retailing idea has been born out by a pair of new reports on the recent buying habits of consumers.
First, happiness. The American Consumer Satisfaction Index remained essentially unchanged in the fourth quarter of 2009, settling into a happy spot of 75.9 out of 100 possible points. That ACSI score is considerably better than the Index was fairing before the recession and is also a bit higher than it was during the fourth quarter of 2008. (Anecdotally, I can tell you that I've found the customer service departments of cell-phone service providers and credit card operators to be much more pleasant to deal with since the great Fall of '08.)
It should be noted that an ACSI score is no trifling matter. According to Marketwatch, in 2009 businesses with improving marks on the Index enjoyed a corresponding stock price gain of some 75%, whereas those with shrinking ACSI rankings lost about 22% of their stock value.
If you are still not convinced that the customer, as the Archers of Loaf among many others have pointed out, remains king, consider that the National Retail Federation is celebrating the fact that sales improved by 0.5% this past December over the previous December. Those half a percentage points matter! And it's because of people like you re-opening your wallets ever so slightly that the NRF can breathe a little easier today. And as long as our economy is tethered so tightly to consumer spending, we will all continue to monitor half percentage point gains with great interest.