ACSI benchmark shows overall decrease for retailers in 2015
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Customer satisfaction with drug stores fell last year as part of an overall decline among retailers, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
ACSI covers six retail sectors — drug stores, supermarkets, department and discount stores, specialty retail stores, online retail and gas stations — and reports measures on a scale of 0 to 100. The ACSI Retail Report 2015 is based on email interviews with 9,358 customers, who were asked to evaluate their recent experiences with the largest brick-and-mortar and Internet retailers by market share as well as with an aggregate category of smaller retailers.
Two years from its all-time high, customer satisfaction with the retail sector decreased for a second straight year in 2015, down 2.6% to an ACSI score of 74.8.
Despite the drop for 2015, the overall score for retail stands just about at its long-term average of 74.6, ACSI noted.
“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.”
That was the case in the health and personal care stores category, which includes drug stores. ACSI said the segment saw a steeper decline in customer satisfaction for 2015 than any other retail category, falling 5.2% to a record low of 73. The customer satisfaction index fell for the nation’s three largest drug chains: Walgreens, down 4% to 74; CVS, down 5% to 71; and Rite Aid, down 12% to 69.
Among non-drug chain retail pharmacy operators, Kroger had the top ACSI score at 81, followed by Target (80), Kmart (76), Safeway (69) and Walmart (68). Target posted the only increase in the category, up 3%, while Kroger had the same score as the previous year. Smaller retail pharmacy operators had an aggregate score of 75, down 7%.
“Pharmacies located within other retailers, like Kroger and Target, lead the industry, indicating that the convenience of being able to fill prescriptions while shopping for other items yields higher customer satisfaction,” ACSI said in its 2015 Retail Report. “Meanwhile, consolidation looms in the industry. CVS recently took over Target’s in-store pharmacy business. Walgreens scores highest among traditional drug stores and is in merger talks with Rite Aid. ACSI data show that mergers consistently dampen customer satisfaction, at least in the short term. If consolidation continues, the industry could experience even further erosion in what is currently record-low satisfaction.”
In customer experience benchmarks used by ACSI, drug store got high marks for 2015 in convenience of store location and hours (85), call center satisfaction (83), quality of pharmacy services (81), website satisfaction (81), and store layout and cleanliness (80).
Other areas evaluated for drug stores included ability to provide brand names (ACSI score of 79), courtesy and helpfulness of staff (79), merchandise availability/in-stock (77), merchandise variety/selection (77), frequency of sales and promotions (75) and speed of checkout process (75).
“Drug stores, like supermarkets, receive their top mark for convenience of location and hours (85), although this score has dropped 4% compared with 2014. Call center satisfaction is up 4% to 83, and website satisfaction remains strong at 81,” ACSI observed in its report.
“For drug stores, the biggest decline occurs for a critical area: pharmacy services (-8%). While the quality of pharmacy operations for drug stores (81) still beats that of supermarkets (76), the gap between the two narrows in 2015. Consumers are happy with drug store cleanliness and layout, but merchandise selection still lags supermarkets,” the report said. “As with other brick-and-mortar categories, the checkout process could be faster. Consumers would also like more promotions and sales, but this can be difficult to achieve in the tightly controlled pharmaceutical market.”
Of other retail categories examined by ACSI, supermarkets saw their customer satisfaction score decline 3.9% to 73. Wegmans had the highest score at 86, followed by Trader Joe’s (83), H-E-B (82), Publix (82), Aldi (81), Hy-Vee (78), Delhaize America’s Food Lion and Hannaford (76), Kroger (76), ShopRite (75) and Bi-Lo/Winn-Dixie (74).
Among discount chains and dollar store retailers, which ACSI grouped in the “department and discount stores” category, Fred Meyer had the top score of 79 for 2015, followed by Dollar Tree (76), Meijer (76), Target (75), Dollar General (74) and Walmart (66). Overall, the customer satisfaction index for the department and discount stores category was down 3.9% to 74 for 2015, with Nordstrom having the highest score (82).
The leading warehouse club retailers — Costco, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Sam’s Club — all saw their ACSI score fall for 2015. Costco had the highest score among club chains at 81, with BJ’s and Sam’s each scoring 76.
Club retailers were grouped by ACSI in the “specialty retail stores” category, which had a 2015 customer satisfaction index score of 77, down 2.5%. Excluding the club chains, the specialty retail category’s top finisher was L Brands (Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works), with a score of 81.
Also down in 2015 was Internet retail, with a score of 80 (-2.4%). Amazon, unsurprisingly, led the segment with a score of 83.
The only retail segment to post a customer satisfaction gain in the 2015 ACSI report was gas stations, up 2.7% to 75. Because of the lower cost of fuel, down 9% year over year as of December, customers are more satisfied, ACSI noted.
Using data from interviews with about 70,000 consumers annually, ACSI is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to U.S. households. The index, which releases results throughout the year, gauges customer satisfaction with more than 300 companies in 43 industries and 10 economic sectors.