Publix Super Markets took the top spot once again on this year’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, but collectively, smaller regional players showed gains.
Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix tallied a score of 86, compared with a satisfaction score of 78 for the supermarket industry overall. Since the ACSI’s inaugural year in 1994, Publix has remained No. 1 in its category — a feat unmatched by any other company in the Index.
Collectively, the group of smaller regional operators scored an 81, up three points over the year-ago score. David Van Amberg, managing director of the ACSI, told SN that sharper pricing on the part of smaller companies could be driving increases in customer satisfaction.
“The smaller players tend to be more satisfying in every industry — from retail to banks to casualty insurers — typically because they are smaller, and focus on quality and better service, although not necessarily on price,” he said. “So when they do take the plunge and improve their pricing, it adds to the satisfaction — it’s an even bigger treat when smaller companies do that.”
Included in the smaller regional banners are Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Meijer, ShopRite and Giant Eagle, among others.
While the smaller regional players collectively improved in satisfying customers, Whole Foods Market slipped in this year’s survey, reversing a trend in which the company had been improving year over year. The Austin, Texas-based company scored a 78, down from 80 a year ago.
Van Amberg said pricing might also have had something to do with Whole Foods’ decline. When the company was first added to the Index, it tended to get lower satisfaction scores for its pricing, he said, but its scores had been improving year after year as it worked on improving its price perception, especially with its private label.
Now that the score has dipped, “It’s not necessarily that they have done something wrong,” Van Amberg said. “It could be a matter of customer expectations — people saw pricing getting better, but they may be saying, Why isn’t it getting better still? Why isn’t that trend continuing?’”
In the ranking of supermarkets, Kroger Co. followed the aggregate of smaller chains, with a score of 81, followed by Whole Foods at 78; Winn-Dixie and Supervalu, both at 77; Safeway at 76 and Walmart at 72.
The ACSI uses data from interviews with about 70,000 customers annually, analyzing customer satisfaction with more than 230 companies in 43 industries and 10 economic sectors.
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