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Wegmans Tops for Food/Drug Customer Service, Says NRF/AMEX Survey

WASHINGTON -- Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. finished first in customer service among food and drug retailers in a new survey of nearly 9,000 consumers.

In the NRF Foundation/American Express 2005 Customer Service survey, released today, Trader Joe's came in behind Wegman's, followed by Whole Foods, Publix, and Safeway-owned Vons in the food and drug segment.

Among discount chains, Wal-Mart held the top spot for customer service. Following Wal-Mart, the other discount chains that made the list include Target, Kmart, Meijer, and Costco.

Apparently, the importance that shoppers place on customer service should not go unnoticed by retailers. Almost 85 percent of consumers said that they spend and shop more at retailers who provide good service. And 82 percent are likely to recommend these retailers to friends and family.

"Retailers know that consumers spend more time and money in a store when they have a pleasant shopping experience," said John Theiss, v.p., retail industries, American Express Establishment Services. "Through excellent service, retailers have an opportunity to retain and build on their customer base."

The nationwide poll found that consumers expect the highest level of service from restaurants, which had a 4.39 rating out of 5.0. Consumers also have high service expectations of specialty stores (4.32), department stores (3.94), and drug stores (3.92). However, shoppers have average service expectations of grocery stores (3.77) and Internet retailers (3.71); and have the lowest expectations of service at membership warehouse clubs (3.58) and discount stores (3.21).

"As the retail environment becomes more competitive, customer service is taking a front seat in helping retailers maximize sales," said NRF Foundation president Tracy Mullin. "Retailers are investing heavily in employee training to ensure that the people who represent their companies during the holiday season are as knowledgeable and professional as possible."

The NRF Foundation/American Express 2005 Customer Service survey was conducted by consumer marketing intelligence firm BIGresearch over three weeks in September. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent. Consumers answered the open ended question, "Which retailer delivers the best customer service?"

In order to develop a fair comparison, regardless of a retailer's size or geographic coverage, the consumer survey responses were compared to each retailer's 2004 revenues in order to develop the overall rankings. The retailers were also ranked by category.
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