US: Retailers Improve Customer Satisfaction Despite Store Closings

The average customer satisfaction rating for retailers in the US grew in 2016, after two years of declines, despite store closures and a decline in footfall. The latest annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) found that the overall rating for retailers rose to 78.3 (out of 100), a record high for the sector.

All six retail categories covered by the ACSI – department and discount stores, gas stations, drug stores, specialty retail stores, supermarkets, and online retail – improved their ratings for the year. Ironically, the improvement is being linked to a decline in mall traffic, leading to less-crowded stores and better customer service.

The Supermarkets category saw its customer satisfaction rating grow by 6.8% to 78 points, aided by falling food prices, higher quality and better service. Trader Joe’s topped the list (+4% to 86), followed by Publix (+2% to 84), followed by ALDI, H-E-B and Wegmans at 83.

Customer satisfaction with drug stores also by 6.8% to 78, with Kmart pharmacy leading at 84, and Albertsons Cos coming in second at 83. Target was the only pharmacy to fall (-1% to 79), while the bottom was rounded off by CVS, Walgreens and Walmart at 76.

In the Department and Discount category, Dillard’s fended off 14 other chains to top the rankings with a score of 83 (out of 100), an improvement from 2015. It was closely followed by J.C. Penney (82/100), which recorded the largest increase in the rankings for the year.  Walmart was ranked at the bottom of the list, with a score of just 72, although this was also an improvement. Overall, customer satisfaction across the category rose to an average 78 points.

Meanwhile, in the Speciality category, Costco topped a list of 26 companies with a score of 83. In second place with 81 points were three chains – Sam’s Club, Barnes & Noble, and L Brands Inc.  The bottom of the category was marked by Abercrombie & Fitch, with a score of 76.

Internet retail led the sector, with its satisfaction rating up 3.8% to 83. Amazon continues to hold first place (+4% to 86), while Newegg gained 5% to 83 and second place, followed by eBay in third (+8% to 81).

The ACSI uses data from interviews with roughly 70,000 customers annually, who rank more than 300 companies in 43 industries and 10 economic sectors, including various services of federal and local government agencies.