Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Supermarkets Are Not Super Satisfying Sector Sees 3.9 Percent Drop in Customer Happiness

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Supermarkets Are Not Super Satisfying Sector Sees 3.9 Percent Drop in Customer Happiness

Article excerpt

While America's gas stations are benefiting from the halo of sliding fuel prices, supermarkets - and Giant Eagle, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Target, in particular - are not doing so well in keeping consumers satisfied.

New data from University of Michigan researchers shows a 3.9 percent drop in customer satisfaction with the supermarket sector as compared to a year ago.

Among the hardest hit grocers in the American Customer Satisfaction Index were Target, with a 12 percent drop; Whole Foods, with a 10 percent decline; Giant Eagle, down 7 percent; and Wal-Mart, down 6 percent.

It's not just grocers that customers are unhappy with, either. The retail sector overall dropped 2.6 percent to 74.8 on a 100-point scale, the second consecutive year that satisfaction has dropped.

The index tracks different industries each quarter. The retail sector - which looks at department and discount stores; online retail; supermarkets; drugstores; specialty retail stores; and gas stations - is considered important because consumer spending is a key driver in the U.S. economy.

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.

Part of the problem in retailers' efforts to keep consumers happy, according to the researchers, can be blamed on the improving economy. Just after the recession, satisfaction scores rose.

"Job security for customer service personnel was hard to come by and everybody was trying harder to please customers," said Claes Fornell, chairman and founder of the index, in a prepared statement. "As both job security and employee turnover have increased, the level of customer service seems to have worsened."

Things might look worse than they are. The overall score for the sector is now about even with the long-term average. Researchers speculated that during the recession, even as employees were more eager to please, customers might have been more forgiving. "As recovery settles in and economic conditions start to look more optimistic, that eeeeeeeeehoneymoon is over," the analysis said.

The supermarket sector, which earned a 73 score overall, saw its ratings slide in a number of categories, including staff courtesy and helpfulness, quality of pharmacy services, speed of checkout process and availability of merchandise. …

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