A recent survey shows that U.S. retailers have missed the mark two years in a row when it comes to customer satisfaction.
What Does the Report Say?
According to a 2018-2019 report from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), consumers are increasingly becoming dissatisfied with most U.S. retailers. The report, based on a survey of more than 62,000 customers chosen at random, shows that U.S. retailers, including both brick-and-mortar and online stores, are “losing ground for the second year in a row.” According to the survey, which was released on February 26, there was a drop of nearly 1 percent in customer satisfaction when it comes to the retail sector.
Why are Consumers So Dissatisfied?
According to NBC News, ACSI Managing Director David VanAmburg attributes consumer dissatisfaction to the “lackluster” and “underwhelming” customer service they often experience. “Things like courtesy and helpfulness of store staff, call center support and even availability of merchandise on the shelves … have seen drops from a year ago,” he added. This is especially true for supermarket shoppers, who say that food quality has decreased over the years, the stores are dirtier than they used to be, there aren’t that many sales and promotions, pharmacy services are poor, brand name products are not as widely available, the checkout process is slower, and service personnel are less helpful and courteous in person and over the phone. What’s worse is that the report shows that “ALL elements of the grocery shopping experience are worse compared to a year ago.”
And, even though Americans prefer shopping online, the survey showed a drop (down 2.4 percent from last year) in customer satisfaction in the internet retail sector as well. In fact, overall satisfaction with the checkout and payment process decreased from 2017 by 2 percent. According to NBC News, consumers say that not only has the online shopping experience not improved at all in the last year, it has actually declined. Areas of complaint include desktop checkout, navigation, and site performance. About the only thing consumers are satisfied with when it comes to the online shopping experience is mobile apps, which earned high marks for both their quality and reliability.
Which U.S. Stores are Among America’s Least Favorite?
According to Food and Wine magazine, these are the U.S. retailers American consumers are the most dissatisfied with:
The bottom five supermarkets:
Southeastern Grocers (the parent company of Winn-Dixie, Harveys, and BI-LO)
The bottom five online stores:
The bottom five specialty retail stores:
Dick’s Sporting Goods
The bottom five department and discount stores:
And, that’s not all. Several other stores have been affected as well. According to the survey, Amazon dropped 4 percent. This is huge news, since the online giant has held the top spot in the ACSI survey since 2010. It was beat out by Costco, which “is the value leader among online retailers, and its Kirkland brand may be part of the reason why, offering quality products at a lower price,” the report said. Meanwhile, Whole Foods, which was acquired by Amazon in 2017, dropped 2 percent and is now tied with Kroger, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Hy-Vee, and ShopRite.
Publix, which came in at number one last year, dropped 2 percent to number four. Fred Meyer, which according to NBC News, is in the midst of a major overhaul, dropped 5 percent. And, Kroger, the second largest food retailer, fell 2 percent.
Meanwhile, auto goods stores O’Reilly Auto Parts and Advance Auto Parts both fell 1 percent, as did Bed Bath & Beyond, TJX, and Abercrombie & Fitch. L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works and others, fell 4 percent to 82. The company’s stock has fallen nearly 56 percent in the last year. L Brands recently sold the La Senza brand and announced plans to close its high-end Henri Bendel chain.
The ACSI report also covered gas stations, which, despite falling gas prices, were hit the hardest. They dropped 2.6 percent to 74, down from 2.1 percent from just one year ago.
What Does All of This Mean?
Well, according to the Sun Sentinel, VanAmburg says this decline in customer satisfaction is a “big deal.” And, Forbes says that it should be a “wake up call to all retailers.” Consumers have so many choices nowadays, and they will seek out those choices when they are not satisfied with what they currently have, Forbes continued. “The point of difference for brick and mortar stores, that is pronounced repeatedly, is that the most important tool they have to compete is to offer a more personal relationship and experience. So why do we see a falling in benchmarks for courtesy and helpfulness of staff and call center satisfaction in supermarkets?” Perhaps, they simply just aren’t listening, Forbes concluded.
The Good News
While this report is definitely not good, it isn’t all bad either. For one thing, not all categories saw a drop in satisfaction. For example, “convenience of store location and hours” was ranked as the highest experience. Second, some retailers actually did quite well, including online stores like Apple, eBay, Etsy, HP Store, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Newegg, Nike, Nordstrom, Overstock, Target, and Wayfair. And, Petco and Gap both rose 1 percentage point, as did Texas-based arts and crafts supply store Michaels.
As for the supermarket category, Trader Joe’s and Wegmans “continued to shine with even higher scores this year,” NBC News said. That’s because “they take great care of their employees, which results in happy employees who are trained that the customer comes first, and they are to do what they need to do to make sure the customer experience is a great one,” industry analyst Phil Lempert, who runs SupermarketGuru.com, said, according to NBC News. Trader Joe’s came in at number one and was not only the highest-rated supermarket but the highest-rated retailer in the entire report. Wegmans came in at a close second.
Meanwhile, Aldi, whose score remained the same, came in at number three. Ironically, the German-owned discount supermarket chain publicly announced its desire to be the number three food retailer in the U.S. As a result, they are spending $5 billion to expand into new areas, remodeling old stores in an attempt to attract 100 million shoppers by 2020, and expanding certain departments.
Others whose scores remained the same include Foot Locker, Best Buy, Pet Smart, and AutoZone.
What kind of experiences have you had at U.S. retailers recently? Feel free to sound off in the comments below. Thanks for reading!