10 Retailers with the Worst Customer Service

By Tim Denman — March 17, 2014

Quality customer service is the goal of every retail enterprise. Despite retailers' best efforts, not every interaction with customers ends with satisfaction. American Customer Satisfaction Index's (ACSI) annual look at customer satisfaction returned some interested results, with top retailer names ranked near the bottom of the list.

Overall 2013 was a good year for satisfying customers, ACSI reports that the customer satisfaction index rose 1.6% across retail, marking the third straight year of improvement for the sector. Interestingly, satisfaction with online retailing took a step backwards, dropping to its lowest level in 12 years. The decrease in Internet shopping satisfaction is attributed to the shortened holiday season, which translated to an increase in last minute shopping, leading to delivery delays and disappointment.  
ACSI's research was conducted from October through December 2013 and consisted of 11,531 phone and e-mail interviews chosen at random. The index is based off of a 100 point scale. The bottom 10 retailers in customer satisfaction for 2013 were:

10. Winn-Dixie. As a whole customer satisfaction of supermarkets rose 1.3% to 78. Winn-Dixie, a large Southeastern grocery chain, scored below the average for the sector with a 77, a one point drop from last year's 78 score on the index. New and remodeled locations at the chain feature new amenities including outdoor farmers markets, expanded meat selection, seafood and wine departments and free Wi-Fi access and coffee. ACSI Index rating: 77.
9. Supervalu. Supervalu is a grocery chain with more than 3,400 owned, licensed, franchised and independently owned stores across the country. For the fourth year in a row the grocer failed to keep pace with the supermarket segment, but did improve its Index score by one over 2012, finishing with a 77. ACSI Index rating: 77.
8. Gap. The Gap owns Old Navy, Banana Republic and of course the Gap. The retailer finished near the bottom of the specialty retailer section of the report, but increased its overall score one point from 2012, finishing with a 77. In 2013, the retailer launched reserve in store and find in store to help increase customer engagement and a seamless experience across channels. The apparel giant is focused on marketing these services aggressively in 2014 especially geared toward Millennials, which could have a positive effect on satisfaction should the service become trendy. ACSI Index rating: 77.
7. Best Buy. Best Buy endured a disappointing holiday shopping season, failing to keep pace with rival Amazon in both market share and customer satisfaction — Amazon scored an Internet retailer best 88. Despite launching price match in 2012 and out performing its online rival in delivery speed over the holidays the electronics retailer finishes with a 77 overall score, down one Index point from 2012. ACSI Index rating: 77.
6. Safeway. The grocer scored below the supermarket average with a 76 total score for 2013. The second-largest grocer in the U.S., was sold to Cerberus Capital Management in early March in a deal valued at around $9.4 billion. Following the completion of the transaction in Q4 2014 Safeway will merge with fellow-Cerberus holding Albertsons. The merger will allow for greater costs savings and ultimately price reductions, and will perhaps raise customer satisfaction. ACSI Index rating: 76.
5. Macy's. Being the leader in the omnichannel movement has not translated to high customer-satisfaction marks, as the department store chain received a 76 in the Index, down two points from 2012. Despite the low ACSI rating, Macy's customers keep coming back, helping propel the retailer to new heights in revenue and profit, as well as store-over-store comp increases of over 3% during the holidays shopping blitz. ACSI Index rating: 76.
4. Walgreens. The drug-store chain raked in over $70 billion in fiscal 2013, proving that customer satisfaction rankings have little to do with profitability. Walgreen was unable to keep pace with the average health and personal care store with a rating of 76, three below the average. The retailer's loyalty program is gaining momentum with over 90 million customers enrolled. Walgreens now has over 12 months of customer data on file which it can leverage to improve customer engagement and satisfaction. ACSI Index rating: 76.
3. CVS. CVS underperformed the health and personal care segment in satisfaction, but did increase its score by one point over its 2012 finish with a final rank of 76. In a bold move announced in January the retailer will cease selling tobacco products in October of this year. The move will likely alienate its smoking clientele, as well as leave $2 billion on the table in sales, but should boost the drug-store chain's overall reputation and could result in a bump in customer satisfaction. ACSI Index rating: 76.
2. Rite Aid. Rite Aid scored at the bottom of the health and personal care segment, dropping three points from last year, finishing with a 74. The drug-store chain is implementing changes across the brand to increase customer satisfaction including the conversion of nearly 25% of its stores to Wellness Stores. Wellness Stores are designed to increase interaction between associates and shoppers, the investment is paying off — remodeled stores are outperforming legacy locations in sales. ACSI Index rating: 74.
1. Walmart. Despite leading the retail world with revenue north of $400 billion the discounter turned in the lowest customer satisfaction rating. The chain's reputation for underpaying employees and driving out small businesses in the markets they operate clearly had an effect on shopper's opinion of the brand. Despite the low customer-satisfaction score, shoppers keep coming back, proving that low prices and a large product array trumps shopper satisfaction.  ACSI Index rating: 72.
For related content:
Retails' 10 Most Valuable Brands
Top 5 and Bottom 5 Retailers of Q4 2013
JCP, Macy's Save Millions, Layoff Thousands


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