Once again, Publix is living up to its motto, "Where shopping is a pleasure." The Lakeland-based grocery chain ranked first in customer satisfaction in a national study out today of retailers and e-commerce businesses.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index gave Publix an 86 on a 100-point scale, edging out Nordstrom and Costco. People surveyed said they like the quality of the products and feel that they're getting a good value. No doubt, BOGO deals keep them loyal.
The annual report measures satisfaction with department and discount stores, specialty retail stores, supermarkets, gas stations and health and personal care stores. A related e-commerce report measures online retailers, brokers and travel companies. About 15,000 shoppers were surveyed during the last quarter of 2012.
Overall, consumer satisfaction with the retail industry is up 0.7 percent to 76.6 points, an all-time high since the report began 20 years ago. Satisfaction with e-commerce is up 1.2 percent to 81.1 points, evidence that people have a better experience shopping online than they do in a brick-and-mortar store.
David VanAmburg, the index's managing director, said he wasn't surprised by the leaders, which do well year after year. They are known for being well-run companies and good places to work. Happy workers means happy customers.
He also wasn't shocked by the loser: Walmart, with 71 points in the discount category and 72 as a supermarket. "Typically, their business model is value over quality," he said. "People like the prices they are paying but don't like the experience all that much."
More surprising was Office Depot, which jumped 6.3 percent to 84 points, the largest gain for any retailer. The office supplies store, which announced plans last week to merge with smaller rival OfficeMax, has downsized some of its big-box stores in favor of more personal customer service. It must be working.
Also puzzling was JCPenney at 81 points, the same as Target and Kohl's. While the department store saw sales plummet after ditching coupons and sales for "fair and square pricing," customer satisfaction remains strong. People who continue to shop there still like the experience, VanAmburg said.
The TJX Cos., owner of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods, saw the largest decline among retailers — 2.6 percent to 76 points. That's mostly because stores had to pass along the rising cost of cotton, much to customers' dismay.
VanAmburg advises that retailers view the report with cautious optimism, especially now that the 2 percent payroll tax cut has expired and consumers have less money in their pockets.
"Retail satisfaction is improving, but that's still only half of the equation," he said. "If people are too skittish to spend, no amount of customer satisfaction is going to overcome that."
Here's a deck of cards stacked for savings. Shuffle and Dine Tampa is selling a deck of cards with 52 coupons to local restaurants and four bonus cards, including free golf for two at the Cheval Golf and Country Club and two tickets to Side Splitters Comedy Club.
Each card is a $10 certificate off a purchase of $25 or more at participating restaurants, including Byblos Cafe, Carmel Cafe, the Bungalow, Vizcaya Restaurante, Mellow Mushroom, Catch 23, Pizza Fusion and Shrimp & Co.
The decks cost $20, with half going to the Florida Gulf Coast Paralyzed Veterans of America to put on the 33rd National Wheelchair Games July 13-18 at the Tampa Convention Center. Cards are valid until Dec. 31 and have no blackout dates. To order, go to shuffleanddinetampa.com/pva.
Susan Thurston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 225-3110.