Which retailers deliver the best customer service?

Discussion
Stephanie, a ShopRite Registered Dietitian - Photo: ShopRite
Jan 24, 2019

Newsweek has published its first annual ranking of retailers delivering the best customer service, and a few of the companies chosen based on a survey of 20,000 U.S. consumers may surprise you.

The publication’s survey, run in partnership with Statista, covered merchants and service providers in 141 categories. Newsweek published the top three in each segment. For brick and mortar retailers to be considered, they had to cover at least two census regions. The final scoring was split 50 percent by the retailer’s Net Promoter Score and the other half based on quality of communication; technical competence; range of services; customer focus and accessibility.

One of the surprises was in the grocery category where perennial favorites Publix and Trader Joe’s were joined in the top three by New Jersey-based ShopRite. Other grocers, including Wegmans, H-E-B, Hy-Vee, etc., were left on the outside looking in

“Many of our ShopRite stores are family-owned and operated and have strong ties to the community. As a result, commitment to our customers never wanes and helps drive all our decision making at ShopRite,” said Karen Meleta, vice president of consumer and corporate communications for ShopRite, in a statement.

Independent ownership may have also been a factor in the drugstore category where Good Neighbor Pharmacy, which bills itself as “Locally Owned. Locally Loved,” was ranked at number one ahead of Walgreens and CVS.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What factors are most important to you in determining the customer service levels of a particular retailer? Do you think local retailers, generally speaking, are better, the same or worse in comparison to national chains when it comes to customer service?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"A sales associate that has a positive disposition, a smile, and genuinely is going out of their way to help customers will brighten their customers’ day."
"It’s no coincidence that companies such as Trader Joe’s, which are front-runners in employee policy, top the list..."
"I have different expecatations of local retailers than national ones. Usually this means a greater focus on the personal interaction and feeling of inclusion/community."

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20 Comments on "Which retailers deliver the best customer service?"


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Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Great customer service involves exceeding shoppers’ expectations — but this means different things to different people. And above all, it depends on the retail segment and format. A “high-touch” retailer like Nordstrom is in a different category from a mass merchant like Target.

The shopper at Nordstrom is probably attracted by the personalized attention, but the Target customer is going to be happy with efficient checkout lanes and high in-stock rates on “shopping list” items. But for both stores (and other retailers and service providers) to turn a satisfied customer into a committed one, they need laser focus on executing their service strategies.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Good service is in the eye of the beholder. What people want and expect varies. However, good retailers cope with this by always getting the basics (politeness, neatness, knowledge) right and then giving staff the flexibility to adapt to customer needs.

Art Suriano
Guest
It is nearly impossible to rank an entire chain for customer service. In retailers today that have multiple locations you can shop in one store and have a tremendous customer experience and then shop in other locations and find absolutely no one to greet you let alone assist you. The problem today is that most stores lack focus and consistency when it comes to customer service and the overall customer experience. Too many retailers still rely on the store managers doing the associate training. When there is a great manager who understands the needs of the customer, that store typically is going to have excellent customer service because the manager is the one who is setting the example. In other stores where the manager is more focused on other issues, doesn’t take the time to train the associates and doesn’t provide an excellent customer service example, that store is not going to be keen on customer service. I am afraid I have to disagree with the results listed in the article because I have had… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
Guest

I agree with most of your comments, Art; except about Apple. Yes, I know they have the reputation of outstanding customer service. But we have been to two Apple stores in particular and experienced less than outstanding or even good customer service.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Customer service is all about people — meeting the needs of customers in a way that engenders trust and satisfaction. Hiring the right people and inventing them to deliver can make a difference both for locals and chains, and customers know it when they see it.

Ray Riley
BrainTrust

There will be many great comments, so I’ll keep it fairly simple. A sales associate that has a positive disposition, a smile, and genuinely is going out of their way to help customers will brighten their customers’ day. Having said that, there are outstanding examples of amazing customer service cultures in local and independent retail, but I do not believe as an aggregate there’s a better service level from national or regional chains.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I generally find customer service at independent stores to be better because those retailers have real skin in the game. Then again, I have had wonderful service at top rated service providers like Nordstrom and not so wonderful service in those stores as well.

A few years ago, after being ignored in too many stores we started tracking our service experiences, we call it our Invisibility Tour. We track great service, too but it’s fewer and far between. We had a perfect service experience last week at Martin Patrick 3 in Minneapolis and disappointing service today at Midway Airport.

Customer service is subjective, what’s important to me might not be a big deal to you. It’s sad, but these days I’m happy if the associate just makes eye contact and says hello.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

To me, no matter if it is brick-and-mortar or online, customer service means taking away the friction. Sometimes it is one stop shopping (i.e. Amazon). Other times it is helping me find what I need when I have no idea (i.e. Home Depot). Sometimes, it is a offering thorough understanding of technology for me when I don’t understand it (i.e. Best Buy).

In general, I find the above retailers and their ilk to be much better than local operators. It seems that local stores primarily are trying to sell you something and not help you. They are interested in one sale and not really concerned if you make a connection.

Evan Snively
BrainTrust
Evan Snively
Director of Planning & Loyalty, Moosylvania
3 years 3 months ago

I have different expecatations of local retailers than national ones. Usually this means a greater focus on the personal interaction and feeling of inclusion/community. From national stores I expect speed, consistency and well-defined processes that I might overlook from a smaller, local shop.
No company is immune from employees having a bad day and not connecting to the customer at the right frequency, but a brand that has a process in place where a dissatisfied customer can easily move up or along the chain to someone who will make it right is giving themselves a much better chance to succeed at customer retention.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

CX is so hard now. It’s a journey, not just dependent on good sales people. How good are you online, on social, on chat, on the phone, in the store, on the way to the store, shipping time, returns? It’s a never ending cycle — life was so much simpler last century! Ha.

But I agree with some of the other comments here; it boils down to people. Across the entire above-mentioned journey, you need people-people at every touch point. I call Spectrum now for service and I NEVER get a person. Do they fix some issues with robots? Yeah, but there’s nothing — nothing — like talking to another person, especially a friendly one. Buying is functional. Brand is emotional.

Shelley E. Kohan
BrainTrust

Great service starts with truly understanding the target market and precisely knowing what are the most important elements of the shopping journey relevant to the market. Then consistently and perpetually delivering each element to the customer at every touch point in the journey. This is not just in the store but across all aspects of the shopping journey including mobile, digital and delivery. Retailers using customer journey mapping and a design thinking approach to building the shopping journey have a higher chance of hitting it right across their target market. Examples of service elements may include differentiated products, value pricing, in-stock inventory, expedited delivery, styling advice, etc. In short, great service is knowing the market, designing the experience and executing consistently across the brand portfolio.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Fundamentally, good customer service is all about treating people with respect, providing a good experience and meeting their needs. This is all dependent on retailers and brands setting the stage with the right customer service and experience strategies. It all begins by companies investing in the most valued commodity — people. There was a tale of two cities at the NRF. One featured seamless cashier-less checkouts, and the other one featured AI personalized retail powered by store associates.

Outstanding sales associates or brand ambassadors do not become so overnight. It’s up to the retail companies to attract, train, develop and retain the right talent to meet the needs of today’s customers. Setting the stage with the right incentives and career growth path are critical to providing an outstanding employee experience. This then translates to providing a great customer experience.

Lauren Goldberg
Guest

Customer service is about meeting and exceeding the customers’ expectations. One of the best way for retailers to do this is by empowering their associates in their interactions with customers. One of my favorite books is QBQ: The Question Behind the Question. Retailers who challenge their associates to ask, “how can I make this situation better?” will always win the customer service game. Retailers who insist associates follow a strict playbook of rules and regulations will have challenges.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

I’m not surprised by the inclusion of Shoprite near the top of the results. As the largest retailers’ cooperative groups of supermarkets in the U.S., these individually family-owned markets have been able to positively differentiate themselves from the large chains in their marketplace. From inner city/food desert stores pioneered by Jeff Brown, through to the latest state-of-the-art Shoprite in Monmouth County, New Jersey, Shoprite has personalized its locally owned home town market to the delight of its customers. Also, Shoprite has demonstrated its community focus when it recently teamed up with Huggies to donate 500,000 diapers to the National Diaper Bank Network. Its investment in Shoprite from Home is another example of containing high tech with high touch. Speaking of high touch, Shoprite clearly spends time and effort to delight each and every customer from the time they enter the store until their bags are in the trunk of their cars.

Jasmine Glasheen
BrainTrust

Based on the Walgreens/Boots alliance recent healthcare fraud settlement — I don’t expect Walgreens to remain a front-runner for long.

Beyond this, I’m glad to see these discussions refocusing on the ability of the employee to make or break a customer’s shopping journey. It’s no coincidence that companies such as Trader Joe’s, which are front-runners in employee policy, top the list of retailers with the absolute best customer service.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

When we look at retailers and customer service, our view should be product non-specific. A great retailer gives you great customer service independent of the product you purchased. Amazon doesn’t give me different customer service when I purchase a $2,000 notebook vs. when I purchase a $5 dog bone. The same holds true for Nordstrom, Whole Foods, Amazon, Home Depot, and many others. There may be individual exceptions, but all of these retailers are world class with their customer service.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

As Justice Stewart said about his threshold test for obscenity, “I know it when I see it.” I just published this piece “Ted Baker Delivers The Best Shopping Experience Around” from many experiences with the brand.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

Reading all the posts that have been written before this one, I find two things in common. 1. It is all about caring, but when it comes to caring, it is more than caring about the customer, but it also caring about the employee, the community and things like the environment. 2. It is also about creating a culture of accountability and responsibility within the organization and all the way down to the associate level. All employees know what is expected, have been trained to do their jobs, and are given the authority to make decisions, and held accountable for the outcome.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest

Outstanding customer service comes first from the sales associate willingly wanting to learn your needs and a strong desire to help. Doing that gives most associates a feeling of satisfaction. Let’s talk about Zappos as an example. The associates are trained to stay with a customer’s call no matter how long it takes. They are not concerned with the numbers. It is the customer that comes first.

Seth Godin’s blog this morning discusses this very subject. His examples did include Zappos as well as Apple. I want to add companies like The Container Store where training in customer service is a never ending process. That is what it has to be: a never ending process. One more point: the sales associate must be given the authority to make a decision that, in some cases, might mean costing the company money returning something even though it does not fit the company’s stated policy.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t it maybe not so much “unfair” as meaningless to have national rankings and include local/regional retailers? How can I compare, say, CVS to Wegmans, when I have no opportunity to shop the latter?

Back to the basic issue, I think the theory is that locals probably have higher prices, but make up for it in other ways (better service however one might define that term, more community involvement, etc.). It’s surprising then that ~1/3 of the respondents voted “worse”… perhaps they’re including the large number of simply bad locals that don’t make it?

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"A sales associate that has a positive disposition, a smile, and genuinely is going out of their way to help customers will brighten their customers’ day."
"It’s no coincidence that companies such as Trader Joe’s, which are front-runners in employee policy, top the list..."
"I have different expecatations of local retailers than national ones. Usually this means a greater focus on the personal interaction and feeling of inclusion/community."

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