During the coronavirus, customers’ experience of the service offered by stores has weakened on average, most in hardware stores and department stores. Customers experience the best service in the grocery trade, and during the year the service experience improved the most in the Cubus and Intersport chains.
The results can be seen in a study by the Finnish Commerce Federation and ETU, which describes service experience, customer satisfaction and other interactions between brick-and-mortar stores and customers, using numerical indicators.*
The weakening of the service experience was mainly caused by stores’ lack of accessibility, as well as their cleanliness and atmosphere.
“During the pandemic, customers’ daily routes changed, and shopping in familiar stores did not go smoothly as before. Fears about the cleanliness of shops and infection risks probably increased,” says Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist of the Finnish Commerce Federation, interpreting the results.
The actual service work did not deteriorate as much as the estimates of cleanliness or location. In the sporting goods trade, practical service work even improved, as did assessments of product and service selections.
Service experience determines customer satisfaction
The customer’s service and price experience has a significant impact on the customer’s overall satisfaction with the store. The service experience in particular largely determines customer satisfaction, especially among customers over the age of 50.
“Stores should give more thought to how to serve customers over the age of 50, who shop in physical stores more than millennials ** do. It can be a competitive asset in the near future,” says Kurjenoja.
Although the service experience has a stronger impact on customer satisfaction than the price experience – i.e. the price-quality ratio and price competitiveness – the customer’s experience of prices cannot be ignored.
“The price-quality ratio guides the choice of store and the service creates customer satisfaction,” Kurjenoja summarises.
Customer satisfaction is important for shops, because a satisfied customer is more loyal and is more likely to do business there again. Since the grocery trade has the most satisfied customers on average, it’s only natural that loyalty is also the strongest there. Customer satisfaction has improved most during the year in the K-Market, Sale and S-market chains.
Do digital channels support buying in physical stores?
Today, it is increasingly rare for a shop to operate either as a purely physical shop or as an online shop, and their website is designed from the outset to support both the online and the physical shop. But how well do customers think this has been achieved?
Websites most support purchases in interior decoration, furniture and electronics chains, but according to customer reviews, the best pages belong to the Motonet chain. The least supportive websites for purchases are in the hardware and grocery trade.
The quality of the website has the greatest impact on the shopping experience of people under the age of 35 and thus on their customer satisfaction. Websites have little impact on older customers – for now.
“Millennials and Generation Z* ** do a lot of data searches and price comparisons on their mobile devices, which is why a good website guides their choices and directly influences the shopping experience in physical stores,” Kurjenoja says.
Kurjenoja anticipates, however, that the importance of websites and digital applications – for example, in design and stylist services – will increase in the buying experience of the physical store, not least because older customers will increasingly switch to digital channels.
The Customer Satisfaction Index supports the development of commerce
Aalto University senior fellow Lasse Mitronen and Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist of the Finnish Commerce Federation, developed a model for measuring different aspects of customer satisfaction in 2018.
“The model examines the buying experience and customer satisfaction so that chains can evaluate themselves against competitors and develop their operations. This is how the whole industry develops,” Lasse Mitronen describes the purpose of the index model.
This year, ETU was also involved in the implementation of the model, which meant that the number of retail chains to be evaluated could be increased to 58 and nearly 20,000 customer reviews were collected.
“The Customer Satisfaction Index provides companies with the opportunity to assess the buying experience from the customer’s perspective, which is essential for the specialty goods trade operating in Finland to be successful in international competition,” says Ulla Pöllänen, Chief Executive Officer of ETU.
Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. 040 820 5378, jaana.kurjenoja(at)kauppa.fi
Lasse Mitronen, senior fellow, Aalto University, tel. 050 375 9015, lasse.mitronen(at)aalto.fi
Ulla Pöllänen, Chief Executive Officer, Federation of Specialty Retailers ETU, tel. 050 300 1660, ulla.pollanen(at)etu.fi
*The success of businesses in the trade is measured by six indices composed of 14 satisfaction indicators, such as the price-quality ratio, the success of practical service work and the desire to do business in the same store again. The index is based on 19,587 customer reviews from 58 physical retail chains. Kantar TNS was responsible for collecting customer reviews. The index model was developed by Aalto University’s Lasse Mitronen and the Finnish Commerce Federation’s Jaana Kurjenoja, who is also responsible for analysing the results.
**Millennial: Millennials are those born between the 1980s and the mid-1990s.
***Generation Z: Generation Z are those born after the mid-1990s or at the beginning of the 2000s.