By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Best Buy ranked highest in customer satisfaction among national and multi-regional major appliance retailers, according to a new report by J.D. Power and Associates.
The 2009 Appliance Retailer Study also showed that majap dealers have raised their average close rate to 37 percent, up from 32 percent last year, and that consumers are increasingly choosing chains based on their past experiences at stores.
The study, now in its second year, measured customer satisfaction with the industry's most geographically diverse dealers based on six performance factors including sales staff, installation service, delivery service, store facility, merchandise and price.
Best Buy achieved a score of 797 on a 1,000-point scale and performed particularly well on installation and delivery. Following Best Buy in the rankings was hhgregg, scoring 794 and performing particularly well on sales staff and price.
Lowe's (792) followed hhgregg in the rankings and performed especially well on store facility and merchandise, the study said.
Rounding out the top five were Sears (783) and The Home Depot (775). Sears rated average in most categories, while the No. 1 home improvement chain garnered below-average ratings across the board.
“Competition has intensified among appliance retailers, particularly in terms of price,” said Dale Haines, a senior director at the marketing information services company, based here.
To differentiate themselves from the competition, he said, appliance retailers have renewed their emphasis on superior service — from the sales process through delivery and installation — by providing additional product knowledge and customer service training to their staffs. This accounts for some retailers' higher customer satisfaction scores.
The study also showed that the importance of a positive past experience in selecting a major appliance retailer has increased considerably. Fully 52 percent of customers said they chose to shop at a store based on a past positive experience there, up from 38 percent in 2008.
“Consumers are increasingly careful about how and where they spend their hard-earned dollars, especially for big-ticket purchases,” Haines said. “A shopper's previous experience with a retailer” — even when visiting other departments such as home improvement or consumer electronics — “is increasingly important to their choice of which retailer to purchase appliances from.”
The study also found that 37 percent of customers purchased their appliances during their first visit to a dealer, up from 32 percent in 2008.
“For more than one-third of customers, appliance retailers are closing the sale on the customer's first visit to the store,” observed Haines. He attributed the higher close rate to the increased use of in-store Web kiosks to help customers comparison-shop competitors. “When these strategies are combined with price match guarantees, consumers are less likely to shop elsewhere,” he said.
The 2009 Appliance Retailer Study is based on responses from more than 4,200 consumers who purchased a laundry or kitchen appliance within the past 24 months from a retail store. The study was fielded between March and April 2009.
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