Sears, Walmart Post Lowest Customer Satisfaction Ratings Again in 2018

The 2018-2019 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) for retail stores and websites shows that customer satisfaction continues to slide from a record high of 78.4 in 2016, through 78.1 in 2018 and coming to rest at 77.4 in 2018.

The lowest-rated department or discount store is Sears, with a score of 70 out of a possible 100 points. That’s down 4% from the retailer’s 2017 score of 73. Walmart, which had fallen to an index score of 71 in 2017, rose a point to 72 last year, but it still finished as second-worst in the category.

Costco topped the category with a score of 83, unchanged from a year ago. The overall score for the category was 76, down 1.3% compared with a score of 77 in 2017. Sam’s Club stores posted an index score of 80 to finish second, while BJ’s Wholesale Club, Dillard’s, Kohl’s and Nordstrom tied for third with scores of 79.

ACSI divides the retail sector into six categories: department and discount stores, specialty retail stores, health and personal care stores, supermarkets, internet retail and gas stations. Results are based on surveys conducted between January and December of 2018, except in the internet retail category, which covers only last year’s holiday season. The survey also rated the three major U.S. shipping services.

ACSI attributes the decline in customer satisfaction with retailers to, at least in part, indifferent customer service. Low unemployment may signal a strong economy, but it drags along more employee turnover, especially in the relative low-paying retail and service industries. Good employees leave for higher paying jobs so retailers are stuck searching for — and eventually training — new staff. Customer service inevitably suffers.

Dissatisfaction with department stores’ call centers dropped the most, from 77 in 2017 to 74. Other areas that scored lower were cleanliness and store layout, availability, and courtesy and helpfulness of the staff. Overall satisfaction with the sector’s websites improved by a point year over year to 78, and satisfaction with a store’s mobile app posted a first-time score of 81.

The specialty retailers ranked at the bottom of their category were GameStop and Dick’s Sporting Goods, both of which lost 4% year over year. L Brands, the operator of Victoria’s Secret stores, also dropped 4%, from 85 to 82, still enough to retain its top ranking in the category.

Walmart also earned the lowest ranking in the supermarket segment with a score of 72, down a point year over year. Trader Joe’s was ranked first with a score of 86. Amazon-owned Whole Foods score 79, just one point higher than the overall ranking in the supermarket category.

Costco topped the internet retail category with a score of 83, one point better than Amazon and Etsy. The sector average was 80, and the two lowest scores were posted by Sears (73) and Walmart (74).

The U.S. Postal Service trailed both UPS and FedEx in customer satisfaction with shipping. The USPS scored 74, while the two publicly traded shipping companies each scored 79. All three posted year-over-year declines in customer satisfaction.