Everyone has to eat, but do you love going to the grocery store or do you suffer through it? Consumer Reports recently released its list of the top grocers in the nation – based entirely on customer reviews – and a few names on the list may surprise you.
Topping the list is Wegmans. No one who lives anywhere close to one of these stores is likely surprised. A constant consumer favorite, Wegmans has found a signature mix of quality products, clean stores and customer service that continues to work, year after year.
Coming in at a close second is Publix, a Florida-based grocer who is aggressively expanding across the Southeast. The chain is built on the motto: “where shopping is a pleasure” and they take that very seriously from the top down. One of the major things that makes Publix successful is that it’s employee owned. When the brand excels, the employees profit, from the CEO all the way down to the bagboys. That incentive encourages employees to keep the customers they have and to go out of their way to earn new business.
Tied at number two is healthy food specialist Trader Joe’s. Based in California, Trader Joe’s has grown coast-to-coast by combining high-end organics with prices much cheaper than competitors such as Whole Foods. How are they able to do that? No one is saying, and consumers aren’t asking. They appreciate the quality and the savings.
Other entries on the list include Costco – mainly in comparison to Sam’s Club – and Fresh Market, another high-end chain where customers care more about quality and service than they do about price.
But market watchers may be surprised to find major national chain Kroger on the list. Second only to Walmart in size, Kroger has the girth and depth to rake in the profits without paying too much attention to customer service. But they don’t skimp there either. Kroger stores are, for the most part, clean and inviting. Quality is high, and customers are satisfied, overall. Most importantly for a chain this large, though, they are not making customers UNhappy. It doesn’t take much to find a ticked off Walmart customer. But Kroger? They manage to satisfy enough customers and avoid aggravating others. It’s a fine line when you serve this many people, but they have found the magic compromise.
Looking at the top stores, it’s clear that the “right” mix of attributes owes as much to public relations as it does to any other factors.
While there will always be shoppers who hold their nose – sometimes literally – and shop on price, the happiest shoppers are those for whom their store has found the right mix of price, courtesy, and quality. Sometimes it’s as simple as a clean and organized, brightly lit store. Other times it’s a smile or a willing hand when you want a special order. None of that has anything to do with discount cards and gas bonus miles or any other gimmicks.
The bottom line is finding a customer-centered approach that increases loyalty and encourages them to share their happy shopping experiences with their friends.
David Milberg is a financial expert from NYC.