Barnes & Noble Leads Retailers In Customer Experience

My research plan for Forrester’s 2010 Customer Experience Index (CxPi) includes an analysis of all 14 industries in the rankings. I recently published the retail analysis which examines the 25 retailers (out of 133 total companies) in the CxPi. Here are the overall results: 

As a group, the retailers did quite well; grabbing 12 out of the top 20 spots in the rankings. Retailers also showed a modest improvement over the 2008 CxPi. Here are some insights from looking at the retail results:

  • The best retail customer experience. At the top of the list, 7 retailers ended up with “excellent” ratings: Barnes & Noble,, Kohl’s, JCPenney, Macy’s, BJs Wholesale Club, and Costco Wholesale.
  • The worst retail customer experience. At the bottom of the list, 2 retailers ended up with “okay” ratings: Office Depot and Marshalls.
  • Best Buy & Macy’s got better. When we compared the 2010 results with those of the 2008 CxPi, we found that nine retailers improved. Best Buy and Macy’s made the largest gains. Going in the other direction, Toys “R” Us, Old Navy, Borders, and Staples had the largest declines.
  • Wal-Mart and  Office Depot aren’t enjoyable. The CxPi contains three underlying components: 1) meeting needs, 2) being easy to work with, and 3) enjoyability. There were only 2 ratings that fell below “okay” in any of those three areas: Both Wal-Mart and Office Depot received “poor” ratings for “enjoyability.”
  • iTunes is most difficult to work with. 24 of the retailers received “good” or “excellent” ratings in the second area, being easy to work with. The lone exception: Apple iTunes received only an “okay” rating.

The bottom line: Retailers are good, but not great in customer experience

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

6 thoughts on “Barnes & Noble Leads Retailers In Customer Experience”

  1. Great info Bruce. Can we get any insights into how the CxPi is calculated, or is that proprietary? Also, can we see all 133 ratings?

    As usual, I gave you a “shout out” in my blog.



  2. Bruce, am I correct in understanding your methodology that consumers were given a pre-selected list of retailers to evaluate? Or were they able to list the companies they’ve had experience with and then rate them?

    If there was a pre-selected list, were grocery retailers excluded from the list intentionally? I know Wal-Mart and CostCo do some grocery retailing, but I’m surprised that there’s no ranking for Kroger, Safeway, etc. Isn’t that were most consumers go at least once a week, and where the average household spends most of their monthly budget?

    Finally, I would encourage you to ask one more question when you get experience ratings: what percent of your spending in that category do you give to that retailer? If customer experience rankings count, it should show up in the average share of wallet consumers give to the higher rated outlets, would you agree?


    Bob Viney

  3. Tim: Thanks for helping pointing out where the methodology is described. Hopefully that was what John was looking for.

    Bob: Consumers were given a set of companeis in each insustry to chose from. We asked them to pick the firms that they had most recently interacted with in the previous 90 days. There was also an option for them to chose “none of the above” if they hadn’t interacted with any of the firms in an industry. Grocery chains were not on the list. I am thinking about adding them next year.

    As for additional questions, we actually ask three specific questions about loyalty that I will use in upcoming analysis: willingness to buy another product, likelihood to switch, and likelihood to recommend. This is the data that I’ve used to model the ROI of customer experience — see: Customer Experience Boosts Revenue.

  4. Bruce – great article but I think your ranking/indexing highlight the fact that all customer experience, is like politics, local. And I might add, individual as well….and it is here that the exclusively on line retailers actually have an advantage in maintaining the customer experience over those with brick and mortar outlets with wide variances in in store management and customer service personnel.
    My own rankings, except for Amazon, would be significantly different – especially for Barnes&Noble, Best Buy, Costco much further down the list…….do you include a variance measure in the rankings to include local performance “outliers”

  5. What does this data tell us about ‘wal-mart’?

    Clearly, they are kicking everyones butt and profits continue to soar.

    Does the data tell us that wal-mart does not care about the ‘customer experience’? Do wal-mart execs stay up at night worrying about the ‘enjoyability’ of the experience they provide to customers.

    I think, the bottom line is not about ‘enjoyability’ but instead its about setting the right expectation and delivering on it consistently. Wal-mart Brand is about
    – cheap prices
    – just an OK experience.

    That’s the expectation that the brand has set. I know exactly what I am going to get when I walk into wal-mart. And since wal-mart delivers on that expectation, I am never disappointed.

    on the other hand, I would expect a totally different experience at tiffany’s.


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