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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.
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.”