Banks and Pharmacies Rate Best in Customer Service in U.S.
Friday, November 13th, 2015
Out of seven major types of businesses, Americans rate banks and pharmacies best in a survey designed to assess recent, in-person customer service experiences at these institutions. Clothing/retail stores and fast food restaurants garner the lowest percentages of "excellent" service ratings.
Nearly four in 10 Americans said they had an "excellent" experience at a bank branch they visited in the last month, while 34% said the same about the service they received at a pharmacy, and 30% said this about a post office. Fewer than one in five (19%) said they had "excellent" service at a clothing store, and 15% had this service at a fast food restaurant.
To focus on recent customer experiences, Gallup asked Americans about their in-person interactions at these seven businesses that they had visited in the previous month. The percentage visiting the various types of business within this time frame ranged from a low of 54% for post offices to a high of 95% for grocery stores.
These levels show significant differences in perceived customer service in the U.S., but customer service touchpoints are only one major factor in the overall customer experience. These ratings may reflect the overall relationship between a customer and an organization, such as the physical environment and wait times, or other indirect contact with a brand. Also, the ratings may be based on the product and the value the product brings to the person.
One encouraging sign is that even for the types of stores with lower ratings, a majority say they have had a "good" -- if not an "excellent" -- experience, suggesting that most customer transactions are viewed positively.
Customer Service Scores Increase by Generation
Different generations of Americans behave differently as customers and have different expectations, and these survey results clearly indicate that ratings of in-person customer service are higher among older than younger generations.
As millennials flock to e-commerce options in the digital age, face-to-face interactions with store employees will become less and less frequent. Traditionalists, those born before 1946, still have significantly more face-to-face interactions than do millennials, especially with banks and pharmacies. In fact, this age group visited pharmacies and bank branches in person more than other age groups by a wide margin.
Generally, face-to-face interactions tend to increase customer loyalty, so if a generation does not frequently interact with store employees, its ratings of the in-person service, when they do experience it, will be lower. To some degree, this observation may explain the paradox that millennials report lower ratings of "excellent" and "good" for the service they receive in post offices (76%) than younger Americans' ratings of "excellent" and "good" for the job the U.S. Postal Service is doing overall (81%). Older Americans, who tend to visit the post office more frequently, demonstrate a paradox in high customer service scores, but they showed less support for the job USPS is doing overall -- 65% rating it as excellent or good.
The lowest variance of customer service ratings across generations is for clothing/retail stores, with "excellent" ratings ranging from 76% to 83%. This relative consistency could stem from these businesses targeting certain audiences -- and their sales forces have dedicated, iterative interactions with the customer base, so the customer service is more targeted to the intended audience. For example, clothing stores designed for younger shoppers may not appeal to older Americans, and their sales forces may be less likely to successfully cater to those older customers.
The nature of customer service in the U.S. is changing rapidly, as more Americans are making purchases online and as businesses implement self-service options at various customer touchpoints. These changes are likely affecting the frequency and type of visits to certain time-honored institutions. For instance, the ability to download and print stamps, and schedule pickups and manage mail delivery online make visiting the post office unnecessary for many customers.
While these changes may improve efficiency in the customer transaction, it means that in-person customer service will have increasingly less influence on how brands are perceived. As the generations shift with millennials becoming an even larger proportion of the customer population, it is incumbent upon these types of businesses to evolve with these key demographic preferences.
At the same time, brick-and-mortar businesses are likely to remain in some form, and research has shown that unsatisfactory customer service is the major issue causing customers to stop buying a product or using a service. So, while these businesses transform with the times, strategic investments in customer service cannot be forgotten.