ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Publix Super Markets retained the top spot among supermarkets in an annual survey of customer satisfaction released last week.
The Lakeland, Fla.-based retailer scored an 82 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, based on a survey conducted by the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan here in partnership with the American Society of Quality and CFI Group (Claes Fornell International). It marked the 15th straight year that Publix has topped the supermarket rankings.
The score, on a scale of 0-100, uses a variety of criteria to evaluate customer satisfaction with businesses' products and services.
Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway had the biggest jump in its score among supermarkets — up 4.2% to a score of 75 this year, just a tick below the overall supermarket industry average score of 76. Kroger Co., Cincinnati, had a score of 77, up 2.9% from a year ago.
Other supermarkets showing gains over year-ago scores included Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas, up 2.7% to 75, and Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla., up 2.8% to a score of 73. Supervalu, Minneapolis, was unchanged with a score of 74.
Interestingly, although Wal-Mart was considered one of the best performers in terms of sales volume in the sluggish economy of 2008, its score on the supermarket component of its business slid 4.2%, to 68.
That may be explained in part by the same phenomenon that saw the score of Dollar General decline by 4% to 75.
That result, the school said, was “not from a decline in service, but from a migration of a higher socio-economic group of consumers to the retailer — a group that tends to be harder to please.”
Wal-Mart's non-grocery business saw its score rise 3%, to 70.
Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco Wholesale, which is tracked under the “specialty retailer” category, had a score of 83, up 2.5%.
Those results contrast with the overall findings of the survey, which noted that an improving score on the ACSI seemed to help mitigate a decline in stock performance in 2008.
“Most retailers have seen falling stock prices, but those that improved customer satisfaction were punished less by investors,” the school said in a prepared statement.
On average, retailers whose ACSI score improved saw their stock price decline by about 30% in 2008, while those whose ACSI score fell averaged a decline of 57% in stock price.