A new customer satisfaction report ranks the Army and Air Force Exchange Service as lowest in the nation for customer happiness at a brick and mortar discount or department store, tied with Walmart.
The report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) surveys 250 shoppers from each store it examines. Researchers also surveyed shoppers who use the Navy Exchanges (NEX), Marine Corps Exchanges (MCX) and the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA).
Those results were not included in the final 2014 report, released Feb. 18, because they have fewer shoppers than the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), ACSI officials said. The survey of those stores is paid for by the Defense Department, which provides contact information for active duty participants, ACSI officials said.
According to the report, AAFES customer service rating is 68 on a scale of 100, considered low by industry standards, according to sources. A ranking in the 80s is considered high, while one in the mid-70s is considered average. While not published in the final report, sources said MCX received a score of 70, NEX a score of 75 and DeCA a score of 72.
AAFES officials questioned the report, in part because it surveyed such a small sample of shoppers. An internal report funded by AAFES through the CFI Group, which uses the same methodology as ACSI, instead looks at 43,000 customers and gave them a rating of 80, they said.
“We believe this accurately reflects the Exchange’s relentless focus on taking care of soldiers, airmen and their families,” Julie Mitchell, an AAFES spokesman said in a statement.
NEX and MCX officials also questioned the report in comparison with their internal surveying. The NEX received a score of 86 in that study and the MCX a score of 80, officials said.
“We believe this score more accurately reflects the MCX focus on listening to the voice of our customer to improve the overall shopping experience,” Bryan Driver, a MCX spokesman said in a statement.
DeCA officials declined requests for comment because they had not yet seen the report data.
The ACSI scores of the four entities also took a dramatic drop in this year’s results as compared to 2013, officials said. AAFES’ 2014 score fell seven points as compared to 2013, while MCX’s fell 13, the NEX score fell four and DeCA’s fell eight. Those decreases, considered dramatic changes by the industry, can be blamed in part on a change in methodology for the survey, ACSI officials said.
In the past almost all 250 shoppers surveyed for each store were retirees and were contacted on land line phones, officials said. For the 2014 survey, ACSI also contacted active duty military users and added in email and cell phone contact.
Officials with the exchange stores said comparing the 2013 data with the information in the new 2014 report is not fair since the methodology is so different.
“As we learn more, we will be better able to understand why there was a departure from the previous methodology, which resulted in a non-comparable baseline,” Mitchell said.
NEX, MCX and AAFES officials all said they have requested the complete data from ACIS so that they can better understand the score changes.
Officials with ACIS said it is not surprising that the scores would drop when younger, active duty military shoppers are surveyed. Younger shoppers, they said, generally score all stores lower than their older, retirement-aged counterparts.
“We’re talking to a younger population, more mobile population and it’s a population that surveys tend to show have lower levels of satisfaction,” said David VanAmburg, ACSI’s managing director.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at Amy.Bushatz@military.com