The new study measures customer satisfaction with the largest appliance retailers based on sales staff, installation service, delivery service, store facility, merchandise and price--in decreasing order of importance.
Responses from 9,200 consumers who purchased a laundry or kitchen appliance within the previous 24 months from a store that sells home appliances between June and July this year were the basis for the study.
J.D. Power said Lowe's scored particularly well in the installation service, delivery service and store facility factors. H.H. Gregg and Best Buy are second and third in the rankings. Fourth-ranked Sears and fifth-ranked Home Depot followed.
Dale Haines, senior director of the real estate and construction practice at J.D. Power and Associates, says the retail experience is determined not by the appliance or the price, but by the people.
"When it comes to how satisfied the owner is, price is the least important vis-à-vis satisfaction with the retailer," he says. "And that's not surprising, because retailers will match a competitor's price. So if I can get the same price at two or three places, my experience will be determined by customer service," says.
He said both Lowe's and H.H. Gregg demonstrate particular strength in providing reliable and professional sales, delivery and installation personnel. "[They] do well in a number of areas, but the thing that sticks out is how consistently strong it is across all of the categories; there are some stores that focus on high end, 'high-touch' service, selection and prices, and those on the other end, mass merchandisers with lower levels of service," he says. "In its niche, Lowe's has figured out how to perform strongly among major retailers in both areas."
He says J.D. Power research also shows that one out of five consumers chose a retailer in part because the store offered the right financing.
Per the study, 40% of appliance owners say they did not shop around, but went only to the store at which they bought the appliance; two-thirds said they purchased on the first and second visit to the retailer.
Haines said there is so little shopping around in appliances because so many purchases are urgent. "We think that in many cases the appliance they are replacing failed and they need one right away, so there is probably a large number of people who are going to buy a replacement today, which is also why in-stock availability is also important. If I can get it at the same price from two places, and one of the stores has the appliance, I will buy it there."
He says that in such a market, where nearly one-third of customers make a purchase decision based on a single retailer visit, the sales staff "must be knowledgeable and courteous in order to capture sales."