Skip to main content

Supermarket Customer Satisfaction Declines: ACSI

Customer satisfaction with the retail sector has fallen for a second consecutive year, according to the results of this year's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), with supermarkets among the harder-hit channels in the national benchmark study.

Supermarkets registered their lowest score in more than a decade of ACSI studies, dropping 3.9 percent to 73.

Wegmans Food Markets, one of three food retailers to improve customer satisfaction indexes, gained 1 percent for a score of 86, becoming one of the highest-ranking companies in the index. Other top-scoring supermarkets included Trader Joe’s (83), H-E-B (82) and Publix (82).

The biggest laggard in customer satisfaction among supermarkets was Target Corp., which plummeted 12 percent to 71, followed by Whole Foods Market, which dove 10 percent to 73. Competition for natural and organic foods has heated up as Whole Foods struggles with a reputation among food shoppers for unjustifiably high prices. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Albertsons and Giant Eagle also ranked at the bottom of the ACSI scale.

“When consumers put a premium on service and quality, smaller companies often achieve higher customer satisfaction scores, and it’s the smaller independent chains that continue to set the bar for supermarkets,” said ACSI Managing Director David VanAmburg.

[[{"fid":"66526","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"","field_folder[und]":"26529"},"type":"media","attributes":{"height":"571","width":"500","class":"media-element file-default"}}]]

Among the six retail categories covered by the ACSI, all dropped but one: gas stations. Due to the lower cost of fuel, customers were more satisfied.

“Customer satisfaction with retail has been higher than its historical norm over the past few years as the economy slowly emerged from the Great Recession,” explained Claes Fornell, ACSI founder and chairman. “This was because it was a tough environment to compete in. Job security for customer service personnel was hard to come by, and everybody was trying harder to please customers. As both job security and employee turnover have increased, the level of customer service seems to have worsened.”

Lower Satisfaction for Online Retailers but Beats Brick and Mortar

Internet retail, which includes websites of brick-and-mortar stores, remained ahead of every other retail category despite a 2.4 percent drop to an ACSI score of 80. Every single online company showed deteriorating customer satisfaction, but Amazon continued its dominance at 83, remaining among the highest-scoring companies in the ACSI. Online retail sales growth year over year was about 13 percent for the holiday quarter, but Amazon nearly doubled that pace, at 22 percent.

Among dollar stores, Dollar Tree (76) edged out Dollar General (74). ACSI newcomer Fred Meyer cracked the top three for department and discount stores, with an ACSI score of 79, just behind Dillard’s, at 80.

Large Drug Stores Lag in Health and Personal Care

Health and personal care stores suffered a steeper decline in customer satisfaction than any other retail category, shedding 5.2 percent to a record low of 73. Walmart’s drug stores were at the bottom, with 68, and the company scored last in every retail category covered by the ACSI. Walgreens, the largest drug store retailer, fell 4 percent to 74, while Rite Aid declined 12 percent to 69, tied with Safeway’s in-store pharmacies.

Kroger, at 81, and Target’s in-store pharmacy business, at 80, led for customer satisfaction among pharmacies. CVS has recently acquired Target’s drug store operations. Given CVS’s much lower customer satisfaction score (71), it will be interesting to see whether the merger will help CVS more than it will hurt Target.

The ACSI index tracks different industries quarterly. The retail sector consists of department and discount stores, online retailers, supermarkets, drug stores, specialty retail stores, and gas stations. Data collected for this quarter's report came from interviews with more than 9,000 customers contacted by email between mid-November and mid-December.

The full ACSI Retail Report 2015 can be found here.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds