20 Most Loved Brands in America

Last Updated Jul 25, 2011 9:46 AM EDT

If you drive a car, you probably know what it's like to love a company.

That's particularly true if you own a Lincoln, Mercury or Buick, according to a fresh set of customer-satisfaction data released by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

Among the 20 companies scoring the highest, car manufacturers were well represented, with 4 companies in the top 10 and a total of 6 in the top 20, the survey found. Other perennial favorites, including Amazon, Apple and Netflix, also made the list. (More on Netflix, in a moment.)

1. Lincoln Mercury (Ford) (89)
2. Buick (GM) (88)
3. H.J. Heinz (88)
4. Amazon (87)
5. Unilever (87)
6. Apple (86)
7. BMW (86)
8. Cadillac (GM) (86)
9. Clorox (86)
10. Hershey (86)
11. Mercedes-Benz (Daimler) (86)
12. Netflix (86)
13. Quaker (PepsiCo) (86)
14. Colgate-Palmolive (85)
15. Dr. Pepper (Snapple) (85)
16. Lexus (Toyota) (85)
17. Mars (85)
18. Mars Petcare (85)
19. Sara Lee (85)
20. United Parcel Service (85)

I asked David VanAmburg, managing director of the ACSI, for a little perspective on the latest numbers. He says the top performers have one thing in common: almost all of them are manufacturers.

"Service industries tend to score lower on the Index than products," he told me. "Products are far more reliable and easier to quality control than services, which more typically involve the variability of the human element. With the exception of Amazon, all the very best-scoring companies â€" the ones that get an 85 or greater â€" are manufacturers."

Consumer Brands Dominate
With only a few exceptions, I see not just well-known consumer brands, but also well-respected brands â€" companies that have spent many years cultivating a caring and customer-friendly image. Hershey. Quaker. Colgate-Palmolive. These companies take branding and brand image seriously.

As I talk with customers, the one company that seems most in danger of slipping off this list is Netflix. Its plans to raise prices by about 60 percent didn't fly with customers, and it will have some damage control to do if it wants to retain its high rating.

This list serves as a guidepost for customers who demand better service and as an example to companies that aspire to offer the best service. These high-fliers have a lot to teach us about how to do customer service right â€" just as the ones that crash and burn show us how to not do service.

I'll reveal the most hated companies tomorrow. And as you'll see, I mean "crash and burn" almost literally.

Related:

Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate, syndicated columnist and curator of the On Your Side wiki. He's the author of the upcoming book Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals, which critics have called it "eye-opening" and "inspiring." You can follow Elliott on Twitter, Facebook or his personal blog, Elliott.org or email him directly.
Photo: redwood 1/Flickr
  • Christopher Elliott

    Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate and journalist. A columnist for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the Washington Post, Elliott also has a nationally syndicated column and blogs about customer service for the Mint.com. He is at work on a book about customer service issues.