This Is the Real Reason Customer Satisfaction Is Dropping in the Retail Industry

Many customers aren't happy with the service they receive at retail establishments. Find out what could be behind the lackluster treatment.

Customer looking at clothes on a hanging rail in a boutiqueMonkey Business Images/ShutterstockFrom filling up their gas tanks to shopping online for clothing and home furnishings to picking up groceries, many customers just aren’t happy with the experience. Why? It could be because many retail establishments are understaffed.

According to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) Retail and Consumer Shipping report, customer satisfaction is down for the second year in a row.

“There is a slump in customer satisfaction in every category of the retail sector,” says David VanAmburg, Managing Director at the ACSI. “Internet retail versus brick-and-mortar retail, department stores versus specialty stores, it’s all down. Considering the importance of retail to overall consumer spending, this decline is a big deal.”

The ASCI arrived at the results by scoring six sectors of retail from zero to 100. Overall, the retail sector was down 0.9 of a point from last year’s report, for a score of 77.4 out of 100. In specific categories, gas stations fared the worst, falling 2.6 percent to 74 points. The other five retail sectors the report analyzed—department and discount stores, health and personal care stores, Internet retail, specialty retail stores, and supermarkets—were all down in the rankings as well.

The reason for the decline in customer satisfaction? VanAmburg attributes it in part to “underwhelming customer service.” Because of low unemployment, there’s greater staff turnover. Retailers are struggling to find and train new employees. That can lead to staff shortages.

“Historically, the ACSI has found that the more service typically required for a given industry, the lower the customer satisfaction, and it rings true for retailers this year,” VanAmburg adds. “Things like courtesy and helpfulness of store staff, call center support, and even availability of merchandise on the shelves all have a service element and have seen drops from a year ago.”

The report wasn’t all bad news, however. Trader Joe’s and Wegman’s both improved in the rankings for customer service in the supermarket category. And Costco topped the list for department stores. The big news: Costco dethroned Amazon as the top online retailer. These are the companies ASCI finds have the nicest customer service.

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Jen McCaffery
Jen McCaffery is an associate editor for Reader’s Digest. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Prevention, Rhode Island Monthly, and other publications and websites. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s growing veggies or trying to figure out the way home from assorted trails.