After a decline with the onset of COVID-19, customer satisfaction with supermarkets and other retailers largely held steady in 2021, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
The ACSI Retail and Consumer Shipping Report 2021-2022 is based on interviews with 36,517 U.S. consumers. Retailers are rated by a score of 0 to 100 according to a range of customer service criteria, such as store location and hours, staff courtesy and helpfulness, store layout and cleanliness, merchandise availability, product quality, checkout speed, frequency of sales and promotions, and website. Six retail sectors were examined, including supermarkets, department and discount stores, drugstores, specialty retail stores, online retailers and gas stations.
Overall, customer satisfaction with the retail trade sector dipped 0.5% to an ACSI score of 75.1 in 2021 from 75.5 in the 2020 study. Only online retailers and gas stations saw their satisfaction scores decline for 2021, Ann Arbor, Mich.-based ACSI noted.
The supermarket segment remained at 76 in 2021 after falling from a score of 78 in 2019 to 76 in 2020. Six of the 20 grocery chains on ACSI’s list tallied higher scores in 2021, while seven upheld their prior-year rating. Seven chains saw decreased scores.
Trader Joe’s again led the supermarket sector — and the retail industry overall — with a customer satisfaction score of 85, up from 84 in both 2020 and 2019. Texas grocer H-E-B came in at No. 2 among supermarkets with a score of 82, the same as in 2020 and higher than any other retailer in ACSI report except e-tailer Etsy, which also had an 82 rating.
Rounding out the top 10 grocery retailers in customer satisfaction for 2021 were Aldi at 81 (80 in 2020), Costco Wholesale at 81 (82 in 2020), Wegmans Food Markets at 81 (82 in 2020), Publix Super Markets at 80 (82 in 2020), Sam’s Club at 79 (80 in 2020), BJ’s Wholesale Club at 78 (same as in 2020), Hy-Vee at 77 (78 in 2020) and Kroger at 77 (76 in 2020).
Giant Eagle came in at No. 13 on the supermarket list but turned in the segment’s biggest ACSI score increase, rising to 76 in 2021 from 72 in 2020. Southeastern Grocers, at No. 17th, had the only other multi-point gain, with its score climbing to 75 in 2021 from 73 in 2020.
In 2021, supermarkets saw improvement in seven of the 15 customer service criteria, including quality and reliability of mobile app, layout and cleanliness of store, website satisfaction, variety and selection of merchandise, checkout speed and quality of pharmacy services. Interestingly, grocery stores didn’t have any declines in the other eight customer experience benchmarks, maintaining their scores from 2020.
“Cool stability. That’s the best way to describe the retail sector right now,” according to David VanAmburg, managing director at the ACSI. “Gas stations have taken a hit for obvious reasons with inflation, but as we progress toward year three of the pandemic, online retail is the only industry that undergoes a satisfaction decline. Drugstores actually see a slight bump, while the other retailers are steady across the board. If I had to guess, I’d say that although customers are likely frustrated with more frequent product delays and limited inventory, they’ve also adjusted their expectations at the same time. This patience bodes well for retailers.”
By segment, online retailers and specialty retailers garnered the top customer-satisfaction scores for 2021 at 77, with online seeing a one-point dip and specialty holding steady from 2020. Next were supermarkets and drugstores at 76 (with drugstores up one point from a year ago), department and discount stores at 75 (the same as in 2020) and gas stations at 68 (down three points from 2020). Also rated in the study were consumer shipping providers, with a score of 74 for 2022, down two points from 2021.
The top finishers in other store categories were Costco (81), Nordstrom (79), Kohl’s (78), Sam’s Club (78) and Target (78) for department and discount stores; CVS (76), Kroger (75), Walgreens (74), Albertsons Cos. (73) and Rite Aid for drugstores; Nike (81), Hobby Lobby (80), TJX (80), and — tied at 79 — Bass Pro Shops, L Brands and PVH for specialty stores; and Etsy (82), Nordstrom (81), Macy’s (80) and Costco (79) for online retailers, with five others tied at 78 (Amazon, Dell, Kohl’s, Nike and Target).