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Mixed Reviews for Customer Service Among Retailers


If brick-and-mortar stores want to stay on top, they need to improve their customer service. According to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ASCI), online retailers are receiving high marks in this area. In the e-commerce arena, more “real” people are answering phones, being responsive to customers’ needs and handling returns in an efficient manner.

By contrast, big Main Street retailers have suffered criticism for being too impersonal, having poor rewards programs, overcharging customers, and having poor delivery service.

Of the top retailers, one of the biggest offenders is the ailing Sears, which has a big morale problem. Disgruntled employee attitudes also filter down to the customers, who experience staff negativity. Moreover, restrictive coupons, delivery problems and a limited rewards program don’t bode well for this retailer.

Wal-Mart is another retailer whose employees are consistently unhappy and consumer satisfaction has reflected that for the past eight years. Its supermarket area is the lowest rated in its category, also.

Safeway, one of the largest supermarket chains, has consistently underperformed in consumer satisfaction for 10 years. Overcharging customers in its Vons and Safeway stores has been a repeated offense, despite being sued by the state of California, and you can bet customers aren’t happy about it.

Another large, underperforming grocer, Supervalu, which owns Save-A-Lot, Albertsons, Jewel-Osco and Shop ‘N Save, has one of the lowest ratings among supermarkets.

There are a couple of standouts in the supermarket sector: Publix and Whole Foods have high ratings of 86 and 80 respectively.

CVS’s and Walgreens’ service ratings have consistently been below its smaller competitors, although an MSN Money/JZ Analytics poll reports a rating of “very good” to “excellent” customer service for CVS and a “good” rating for Walgreens. It’s also noted that according to the ASCI, the bigger the drugstore chain, the lower the quality of customer service.

While the bottom line at TJX Companies, which owns T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods, is up, customer satisfaction is among the lowest of any brick-and-mortar retailer. The MSN Money/JZ Analytics survey found that less than 18% of consumers described service at the company's T.J. Maxx chain as "excellent"—among the lowest of all businesses surveyed.

While Gap’s numbers are way up, customers ranked it near the bottom in scores. Of the 10 specialty retailers, ASCI rated Gap as the worst for customer satisfaction (for the fifth year in a row), tied with T.J. Maxx.

Brick-and-mortar retailers still reflect the majority of sales, but if online retailers continue to outperform their Main Street counterparts, they are likely to eat into brick-and-mortar market share. A February U.S. Census Bureau release noted that 5.4% of retail sales came from e-commerce, up from 4.8% the same month a year earlier.

Brick-and-mortar retailers need to create a positive message by creating a connection with their target customers; building long-term customer relationships; providing adequate staff training and having informed employees.

Using a retail staffing firm can go a long way in providing consistency in staffing and quality customer service, and brick-and-mortar stores need to have these components in place to compete in this multi-channel retail environment. 

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