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New survey sheds light on top supermarket customer service

BY Katherine Field Boccaccio

TORONTO — Safeway and Wegmans ranked highest across all customer service elements, according to a survey by Empathica.

Empathica, a customer experience management solution-provider, polled more than 16,000 consumers, and found that operations and merchandise were the two most important elements in grocery shopping versus other elements, such as promotions, people and technology.

While Wegmans had the highest scores across all service elements, Trader Joe’s, Publix Super Markets, Harris Teeter and Whole Foods Market also ranked high across 4-out-of-the-5 service areas, yet fell short with promotions. The promotions category took into account loyalty programs, availability of coupons, as well as pricing, availability and frequency of promotions.

“In light of current economic conditions, grocery stores must pay attention to all service areas in order to preserve customer loyalty,” Empathica VP grocery Brian Jones said. “Promotions are no exception.”

Although 48% of respondents consider electronic offers to be important, one-third felt those offers did not always meet their expectations, Jones said.

In Canada, Safeway had the highest score in meeting customer expectations across all service areas. Wal-Mart Stores ranked near the bottom of the list for operations, people and promotions among Canadians. In the United States, Wal-Mart ranked among the lowest in those same service areas, in addition to merchandise. A&P, C&S Wholesale Grocers and Unified Grocers also ranked among the lowest across all five service areas.

More than 85% of surveyed consumers indicated they would spend more or the same at grocery stores and supermarkets within the next three months. Additionally, more than half of consumers reported spending more than half of their grocery dollars at their primary supermarket.

“According to the survey, a considerable number of U.S. consumers shop at Walmart for their groceries. In fact, more than one out of every four consumers shopped for groceries at Walmart,” Jones said. “This is largely indicative of their prices.”

In the Midwest, the top five grocers based on overall customer experience were Giant Eagle, Meijer, Kroger, Hy-Vee and Aldi. The Northeast was topped by Wegmans, Delhaize America, Ahold USA, Wakefern Food Corp. and Giant Eagle.

In the south, Harris Teeter, Publix, Kroger, H-E-B and Safeway were the top five. And in the west, it was Kroger, Safeway, Supervalu, Costco and WinCo.

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Reports: Big Y bids farewell to self checkout

BY Allison Cerra

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Big Y is saying "so long," to its self-service checkout lanes at its stores, according to published reports.

The New England-based retailer is slated to phase out self-serve lanes at all 61 locations.

"After extensive research, Big Y has concluded that these self checkout lanes not only do not save their customers time but usually take them even more time to check out than customers in standard checkout lanes," the company said in a statement. “Self-checkout lines get clogged as the customers needed to wait for store staff to assist with problems with bar codes, coupons, payment problems and other issues that invariably arise with many transactions."

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Kansas City, Mo., coalition saves nearly $11 million in healthcare costs

BY Alaric DeArment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A value-based benefits project saved a group of employers in Kansas City, Mo., nearly $11 million in direct healthcare costs.

The Kansas City Collaborative, or KC2, launched a project focused on giving employees and their dependents access to better health information, reducing barriers to preventive care, engaging them in reducing health risks and accessing earlier treatment of chronic disease. Led by the Mid-America Coalition on Health Care, the project included 15 local employers and about 400,000 area employees and their dependents.

"The Kansas City Collaborative employers are to be commended for recognizing the importance of investing in the health and wellbeing of their employees and making benefit design decisions based on data," MACHC president and CEO Christine Wilson said. "By implementing a value-based approach to health benefit design, this group of employers has been able to better address worker health and productivity while also lowering overall healthcare costs."

Employers participating in KC2 include H&R Block, Hallmark Cards, Spring, the University of Kansas Hospital Authority, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City and others.

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