Has the retail industry upped its customer service game?
Customer satisfaction with retailers following the 2016 holiday season was at an all-time high. That’s according to the recently published results of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). However, some of the reasons these customers were happier may cause concern for the industry going forward.
The ACSI, which covers department stores, discount outlets, drugstores, gas stations, online retail and specialty chains, saw customer satisfaction levels climb nearly five percent to 78 on a scale of 100. This best-ever score for the industry followed two years of declines.
As to the why behind the improvement, ACSI points to the shift of sales to online sites and to declining traffic at mall-based stores.
Online had the highest retail sector score of 83, up 3.8 percent from last year. Amazon.com, which was up four percent, led the pack with a score of 86, followed by Newegg (83), Netflix (79 and Overstock.com (79).
Department stores saw customer satisfaction levels increase. Dillard’s — tied with Costco for the highest score overall for brick and mortar stores — improved four percent to 83. J.C. Penney achieved the biggest year-over-year gain, jumping 11 percent to 82. Nordstrom was the only department store to see its score decline. The chain fell two percent to tie with Belk at 80.
“As traditional outlets such as Sears, Macy’s and J.C. Penney shed properties, shoppers may experience better service in the stores that remain,” said David VanAmburg, ACSI managing director, in a statement. “Although this is obviously not ideal or sustainable in the long run, fewer customers mean shorter lines, faster checkout and more attention from sales staff.”
Interestingly, Walmart was among the retailers posting the biggest improvement in their ACSI scores. The chain, which has invested in better pay and training for associates and managers, positioned “Holiday Helpers” near registers the last two months of the year to help create “an extra fast, friendly checkout experience.” While Walmart improved nine percent from the previous year, it was still last among all retailers assessed with an ACSI score of 72.
- ACSI: Retailers Improve Customer Satisfaction Amid Store Closings – American Customer Satisfaction Index/PR Newswire
- ACSI Retail Report 2016 – American Customer Satisfaction Index
- Will checkout elves make Walmart’s customers merrier this Christmas? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think the retail industry, in general, is doing a better job today in satisfying customers than in the past? What factors — human or technological — will contribute most to customer satisfaction in the years ahead?