Recent results of the customer satisfaction index, developed by the Finnish Commerce Federation and Aalto University Professor of Practice, Lasse Mitronen, show that customer satisfaction in consumer services is highest in medical centres, followed closely by daily consumer goods trade. Medical centres also had the greatest increase in customer satisfaction during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The results were very much expected, because the appreciation for health care has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist, Finnish Commerce Federation.
It is great to see that domestic companies, such as Halonen and the Kotipizza chain, among those that increased satisfaction the most during the year. Factors for which Kotipizza has garnered attention include development of multi-channel customer service and selling portions that would otherwise go to waste via their mobile application. Halonen is a family enterprise that operates in the difficult fashion sector, which makes such a marked increase in customer satisfaction a great accomplishment.
However, the company that had the greatest increase in customer satisfaction is HOK-Elanto’s Alepa chain. Customer satisfaction was the highest among customers of Dressmann.
“The strongest competitive factor for a corner store is that customers enjoy coming there. Our stores are small, so the sales staff are close to the customer. They will often get to know the customers. At a hypermarket, the staff are more distant. That is why it is good that customer service is a key asset for us,” says Merja Mustonen, Director of Alepa’s chain.
One sign of the many challenges posed to the service sector by th COVID-19 pandemic is the crash of customer satisfaction in hotel chains as customers have not been able to get the service they expected or wanted, for example, during their summer holidays. Satisfaction in sporting goods also decreased.
“Due to high demand this spring, sporting goods stores ran out of the most popular products, which took its toll on satisfaction,” says Kurjenoja to explain the result.
A physical store copes with location, selection and customer service
During the COVID-19 pandemic many stores saw a decrease in the price experience, which refers to the quality of the service and product offering relative to the price and the likelihood of finding a product elsewhere that is better relative to its price. The increased popularity of buying online may have had an impact on the price competitiveness of physical stores as customers searched for products in the international markets. However, the opposite does hold true for some, and the three companies to have increased their price experience the most are all in the commerce sector: Alepa, Biltema and Kookenkä.
“That fact that within the domestic fashion trade, Halonen improved their customer satisfaction and Kookenkä their price experience shows that a physical store can serve even in a world of tight international and online competition,” estimates Kurjenoja.
“Many successful stores have invested in merging functions of the brick-and-mortar and online stores, making it as easy as possible for customers to get the impulse to buy, find products, make the purchase and pick up the product or have it sent. At the same time, they have aimed to ensure safety and speed in all activities,” says Mitronen.
Of all sectors, daily consumer goods trade has the best overall service experience which also improved during the pandemic with increasing appreciation for good location and product selection. The best experiences of practical customer service work were encountered at R-Kioski and Dressmann.
However, the service experience deteriorated in some sectors and companies. This is mostly attributable to changes in customers’ commutes and other traffic routes and people avoiding shopping centres, which caused services that used to be easily accessible to feel more difficult to access. In some stores, the high demand during the spring and early summer reduced stock levels and restrictions imposed on the opening hours of restaurants and cafes had a negative impact on customer service.
Daily consumer goods trade had the greatest increase in customer satisfaction over the last two years
In a two-year period, that is compared with 2018, customer satisfaction and service experience improved the most in daily consumer goods trade. In the commerce sector, Alepa and Citymarket had the biggest improvement in customer satisfaction and Alepa, RTV and Citymarket had the biggest improvement in service experience.
Factors such as launching new stores and concepts – as well as randomness that is always related to surveys – may temporarily increase a company’s index score. Such changes will usually even out already within the following year. However, it is clear to see that certain companies continue to rank among the top in their sector and have a very stable customer satisfaction. For example, IKEA and Motonet have constantly received the best evaluations among department stores and household goods stores with a large selection of goods.
Results of the Customer satisfaction index, conducted now for the third time, demonstrate how online buying, multi-channel service and international competition has caused commerce sector companies to increasingly pay attention to customer satisfaction and customer service.
“The more companies there are that compete with customer satisfaction, the more appreciation the service sector will get. That is, in fact, one of the key goals of the Customer satisfaction index,” says Kurjenoja.
Customer satisfaction in services in Finland 2020, summary of key results
Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)40 820 5378, jaana.kurjenoja(at)kauppa.fi
Lasse Mitronen, Professor of Practice, Aalto University, tel. +358 (0)50 375 9015, lasse.mitronen(at)aalto.fi
Merja Mustonen, Director of Chain, Alepa, tel. +358 (0)10 76 60606, merja.mustonen(at)sok.fi
The customer satisfaction index is part of the research cooperation between Professor of Practice Lasse Mitronen from Aalto University and the Finnish Commerce Federation. A sample of 5,221 residents of mainland Finland between the ages 15–79 was collected for the customer satisfaction index by Kantar TNS. Each respondent has evaluated 2–3 service companies, and the data consists of in total 13,635 customer evaluations in total. More detailed data of the survey are provided in the appendix.