Publix Super Markets ranked first among supermarkets in the Newsweek 2021 America’s Best Customer Service list
For the study, Newsweek partnered with global data research firm Statista to identify retailers that consistently provide top-notch customer service. Researchers surveyed more than 25,000 U.S. customers who have made purchases, used services, or gathered information about products or services in the past three years.
The final assessment and rankings for Newsweek’s 2021 Best Customer Service list were based on a retailer’s Net Promoter Score and five customer-service criteria: quality of communication (friendly or polite contact via e-mail, telephone or in person), professional competence (quality of information received and response to customer questions), range of services (variety of solutions available to meet customer expectations), customer focus (assessment of whether a customer feels acknowledged and important) and accessibility (availability of customer service in-store or via a helpline).
Polling covered retailers and service providers from 160 categories, addressing a range of customer experiences in traditional retail, online and service segments. The top three to five brands (based on segment size) that earned the highest scores in each category were awarded as America’s Best Customer Service 2021.
In the brick-and-mortar supermarket category, Publix came in at No. 1 in customer service with a score of 8.79 out of 10, followed by another traditional grocer, Wegmans Food Markets (8.62), and then three specialty food retailers: Trader Joe’s (8.57), Sprouts Farmers Market (8.54) and The Fresh Market (8.35).
“We are honored to be recognized with this award by our customers,” Maria Brous, director of communications at Publix, said in a statement. “Publix associates work hard to treat our customers like royalty, and we’re grateful to be acknowledged for customer service excellence in our industry.”
Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix has more than 225,000 employees and operates 1,253 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
Among online food retailers on the Newsweek list, AmazonFresh finished first in the grocery category with a score of 8.26, edging out FreshDirect (8.15) and Shipt (8.10). Meal kit services also were ranked, with The Kroger Co.’s Home Chef (8.41) coming out ahead of Martha Stewart’s Martha & Marley Spoon (8.28) and HomeFresh (8.16).
Other brick-and-mortar retailers in the food, drug and mass channel also made the list. Costco Wholesale ranked first among superstores and warehouse clubs with an 8.68 score, followed by Meijer (8.44) and Sam’s Club (8.21).
Leading the pharmacy and drugstore category were three retail pharmacy formats, with supermarket chain Giant Eagle at No. 1 with a score of 8.02, ahead of drug chain Walgreens (7.98) and independent pharmacy network Good Neighbor Pharmacy (7.89).
Specialty grocer The Fresh Market said that, since January, its guest insight scores have climbed in the areas of team member recognition for providing exceptional service, overall satisfaction and staff friendliness.
"While The Fresh Market has always put the needs of our guests first, this recognition is especially meaningful amid the precautionary measures grocery stores have had to put in place over the past seven months like face coverings, plexiglass shields and social distancing that can impede interacting with our guests," President and CEO Jason Potter said of his company's ranking in the Newsweek list. "During these stressful times, it is more important than ever to offer impeccable guest service and hospitality."
Greensboro, N.C.-based The Fresh Market operates 159 stores in 22 states. Its stores are about half the size of a traditional supermarket, which the company said makes it easier and faster to shop. The smaller store also brings a more personal feel, The Fresh Market said, adding that stores have soft lighting and play classical music playing, and staff often know customers by name.
"The little touches make a big difference, such as greeting our guests with a smile, walking them to an item they are looking for versus pointing, making a recommendation to complement their meal and overall treating them the same as you would for any guest invited into your home," according to Potter.
In total, the Newsweek/Statista study collected 160,000 evaluations, and the awarded brands each received nearly 100 customer evaluations on average. Newsweek said that, for each category, the most relevant brands were included in the scope of the survey based on reputation, turnover or market share.
“A global pandemic, wildfires, racial protests and a polarizing election: At this moment, a ranking of stores that offer a satisfying shopping experience might seem completely irrelevant. And if that's what you’re feeling, we won’t argue. But still, if there were ever a time when one wanted to feel listened to and accommodated, it’s now,” Newsweek Global Editor in Chief Nancy Cooper said in the America’s Best Customer Service 2021 online report. “Whether it’s an intuitive website, a generous return policy or a friendly voice on the other end of the phone, these companies have found a way to put you, the consumer, first.”
*Editor's Note: Article updated with comment from The Fresh Market.