ACSI: Walgreens, CVS tops in customer satisfaction

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Walgreens is the top drug store when it comes to customer satisfaction, with CVS not far behind, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Fourth quarter data from the ACSI shows that customer satisfaction with the retail sector in general fell for a second consecutive year, but the overall score for retail stands almost exactly at its long-term average. 

Health and personal care stores suffer a steeper decline in customer satisfaction than any other retail category, shedding 5.2% to a record low of 73. Wal-Mart’s drug stores are at the bottom with 68 and the company scores last in every retail category covered by the ACSI. Walgreens, the largest drug store retailer, falls 4%  to 74. Rite Aid plunges 12% to 69, tied with Safeway’s in-store pharmacies.

Kroger at 81 and Target’s in-store pharmacy business at 80 lead for customer satisfaction among pharmacies. CVS has recently acquired Target’s drug store operations. Given CVS’s much lower customer satisfaction (71), it will be interesting to see if the merger will help CVS more than it will hurt the Target.

“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,” says 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.”

As for the rest of the retail sector, Internet retail, which includes websites of brick-and-mortar stores, remains ahead of every other retail category despite a 2.4-percent drop to an ACSI score of 80. Every single online company shows deteriorating customer satisfaction, but Amazon continues its dominance at 83, remaining among the highest-scoring companies in all of the ACSI. Online retail sales growth year over year was about 13 percent for the holiday quarter, but Amazon nearly doubled that pace at 22 percent. 

After several years of pretty high customer satisfaction, supermarkets register their lowest score in more than a decade, dropping 3.9% to 73. A wide range in customer satisfaction for supermarkets suggests that it is possible to please customers even though overall satisfaction is down for the industry. Wegmans, one of three retailers to improve customer satisfaction, gains 1 percent to 86 and becomes one of the highest-scoring companies in the Index. Other top-scoring supermarkets include Trader Joe’s (83), H-E-B (82) and Publix (82). Giant Eagle and Wal-Mart at 67 find themselves at the opposite end of the scale. Albertsons, which recently merged with Safeway, rounds out the bottom three at 68.

“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,” says VanAmburg.

The biggest loser in customer satisfaction among supermarkets is Target. It plummets 12 percent to 71, followed by Whole Foods, which dives 10 percent to 73. Competition for natural and organic foods has been heating up as Whole Foods struggles with a reputation among food shoppers for unjustifiably high prices.

Costco sits atop the specialty retail ratings at 81.