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Kroger executive VP Donald Becker dies at 62

BY CSA STAFF

Cincinnati — Kroger Co. announced late Wednesday that executive VP Donald E. Becker died Wednesday after suffering an aneurysm. He was 62 years old.

Becker started with Kroger as a clerk in 1969 in the Cincinnati-Dayton area and worked his way up to hold several leadership positions. In 2004, he became executive VP, a role in which he led the company’s merchandising and purchasing among other duties, the company said in a statement.

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Survey: Fewer consumers switch service providers

BY CSA STAFF

New York City — For the first time in six years, the number of consumers who switched service providers as a result of poor customer service declined in 2010, according to the latest edition of an annual consumer behavior study by Accenture.

But while fewer people are switching, that does mean that service has improved. In fact, the study shows that consumer satisfaction is down across the board — in each of the 11 service characteristics survey respondents were asked to rate. Their satisfaction declined in areas ranging from having customer service available at convenient times to being able to access service through multiple channels.

The Accenture Global Consumer Survey found that 64% of consumers switched from at least one service provider — a bank, utility or wireless carrier, for example — due to poor customer service in 2010. Retailers (26%) and banks (22%) demonstrated the highest rates of consumer defection, followed by Internet service providers (19%), wireless carriers (17% ) and landline providers (16%).

The survey, which assessed consumer attitudes toward customer service and marketing and sales practices in 10 industries among more than 5,800 people in 17 countries, also found that more than two-thirds (67%) of global consumers are not willing to compromise on levels of product quality in exchange for lower prices and more than half (54%) are not willing to compromise on levels of customer service. And, according to the survey, the percentage of consumers who identified price as the reason for selecting a new provider declined from 75% in 2009 to 57% in 2010.

“As the global economy recovers, we’ve identified some telling shifts in consumer attitudes,” said Robert Wollan, global managing director, Accenture Customer Relationship Management. “The unexpected reversal in switching rates indicates that despite the decline in satisfaction with service, other factors, including loyalty programs and the use of technology, are influencing consumers’ decision to stay with or leave their providers.”

In other findings:

  • More than three-quarters (77%) of global consumers reported that the use of technology in the pre-sales phase — such as e-mail advertisements, online banners, product comparison tools and online ordering — has improved their experience when deciding to purchase a service provider’s offerings.
  • More than two thirds (66%) say their growing use of technology for customer service through such channels as automated phone attendants, live Internet chats and self-service options on a website has improved the level of service over the past five years. In each Accenture survey since 2007, that number has increased.
  • Word-of-mouth is the source of information respondents use most (76%) and consider most important (56%) when deciding whether to do business with a service provider. Word-of-mouth extends to postings on social media sites, where one in four respondents say they trust the comments about companies and brands posted online by people they know.

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Wolstein stepping down as executive chairman of the Developers Diversified Realty board of directors

BY CSA STAFF

Beachwood, Ohio — The Developers Diversified Realty Corp. board of directors announced the company and Scott A. Wolstein have agreed he will step down from the role of executive chairman of the board of directors.

Wolstein co-founded Developers Diversified Realty with his father in 1992 and led the company’s successful IPO in February of the following year. Under Wolstein’s guidance and leadership, Developers Diversified has grown to become one of the world’s leading retail real estate companies with nearly $18 billion in assets under management and operations throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and Brazil.

Commenting on this transition,Wolstein said, "I enter this new chapter of my professional life with complete confidence that Developers Diversified is in good hands. I am certain that the company’s management team, led by Dan Hurwitz — one of the industry’s most highly capable and most highly respected CEO’s — will continue to thrive as an international market leader in the world of retail real estate."

Terrance R. Ahern, lead director of the Developers Diversified board will serve as chairman of the board following Wolstein’s departure. Ahern is the co-founder and CEO of The Townsend Group, an institutional real asset advisory firm formed in 1986, which advises and invests on behalf of domestic and offshore public and private pension plans, endowments and foundations, sovereign wealth funds and multi-manager funds.

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