Among retailers, the grocery sector got the top score in consumer satisfaction for a second year in a row in an annual survey conducted by marketing firm KPMG. Three grocery retailers in particular — H-E-B, Publix and Wegmans — made the survey’s list of 10 companies that provide the best customer service.
- Supermarkets moved up in the rankings in 2017 by demonstrating a knowledge of customers that enables them to adapt to changing needs, the report says. Grocery stores at the top of the satisfaction list demonstrate immersive and often sensorial experiences for customers. As the highest ranked brand in the grocery sector, H-E-B's customers say they like the store because it offers impressive and unusual displays — such as a pepper stall that organizes products from “mild and nice” to “super spicy,” and a grind-your-own nut butter station.
- The study measured all kinds of companies and organizations by six pillars of excellence in terms of customer service: personalization, integrity, expectations, resolution (turning a poor experience into a positive one), time and effort, and empathy. The most improved area across the board was empathy — showing the importance of maintaining a human touch, even as brands rush to integrate e-commerce, automation and AI into the consumer process, the report notes.
At a time when Americans might be questioning their standing in the world, it’s nice to know customer service is an area the country continues to excel in. That’s particularly true for grocers, according to KPMG.
“What these companies have in common is a clear understanding of how the experience they deliver creates value for the customer and them,” the report’s authors write. Leading U.S. grocers were recognized for the excitement they bring to shopping, the report says, especially through in-store food showcasing, the range of cuisines and innovative products.
The three grocery chains leading the pack, all regional retailers, understand both their market and their customers’ needs.
In March, Texas grocer H-E-B launched a special-edition reusable tote bag featuring images of the late Mexican-American singer Selena Quintanilla. A significant portion of H-E-B's customer base consists of Mexican-Americans and native Spanish-speaking consumers who appreciate the company's authentic Hispanic food offerings. The $2 bags were reportedly sold out within 15 minutes in some places and were completely gone by mid-afternoon, according to Retail Wire.
And although Publix has gone through a bit of rough patch — recently suspending all political donations after facing a "die-in" protest for giving campaign funds to a pro-gun Florida gubernatorial candidate — the grocer is well known for its customer service and execution. Its stores are renowned for their cleanliness, neatly arranged shelves and market-specific merchandising mix. Publix employees are trained to greet customers as they walk in the door and will carry bags to their cars after they’ve checked out.
Wegmans has also elevated the supermarket experience, even by its own "Disneyland of food shopping" standards. It built a new 146,500-square-foot store in a two-story space with three restaurants and a second floor dedicated to fresh selections in the upscale Natick Mall in Massachusetts. Consumer satisfaction is so important to the grocer with stores mostly in the Mid-Atlantic and East Coast, it trained workers at other stores for six months before moving them to the new location.
And while the top stores continue to find unique ways to offer customers new experiences, they also look for ways to make the grocery experience as efficient as possible. Wegmans places fresh foods in a single upper-level area of its new store, giving customers quick access if they need only to pick up an item or two.
Grocers hoping to meet the satisfaction levels of H-E-B, Publix or Wegmans would do well to mimic their efforts as well as focus on themes among all types of businesses that shine at customer service. While on its face, Disney Parks have little in common with grocery stores, the third-ranked business continues to post top satisfaction rankings because of the company’s highly trained and engaged employees — providing the all-important human touch — and its clever use of technology — including smartphone apps and innovative queuing systems. Grocery stores can easily take advantage of all of those aspects to make the experience of shopping more enjoyable.