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Their outstanding scores show that consumers appreciate companies that embody main-street values. In a divisive sociopolitical landscape, shoppers are turning to brands in their backyards that offer an escape from the chaos and provide a sense of comfort and belonging. Brands bridging the partisan divide and serving all members of their communities. These are not only spaces close to home that consumers know and trust, but stores that offer them comfort food, nurturing products that suggest warmth and safety, which could explain why brands typically carried by supermarkets such as Kraft Heinz (#13), Kellogg's (#14) and General Mills (#13) also landed excellent or very good scores. The supermarkets and comfort brands even beat tech giants like Facebook and Uber.
The RQ study ranked companies based on their reputation in six different categories: Emotional Appeal, Products & Services, Social Responsibility, Vision & Leadership, Workplace Environment, and Financial Performance. For supermarkets, Wegmans made the top 10 lists in all six categories. While companies like Publix and HEB made the list for vision and leadership, emotional appeal, workplace environment and social responsibility. It's understandable to see these two companies in almost all six categories, particularly for social responsibility as both brands teamed up last year to send aid to Floridians during Hurricane Irma.
Lately, shoppers turned to social media to complain about their experiences at the stores. Customers were outraged about overcrowding, long wait hours and unpleasant customer service. Some went as far as describing their store visits as "hell on earth" and compared it to visiting the DMV.
These poor in-store experiences betray Apple's disconnect with consumers and could partly explain its declining reputation. In The Harris Poll's recent Reputation Quotient study, Apple dropped in the ranking from #5 in 2017 to #29 this year. Back in 2013, the tech giant was second on the list of 100 companies; only Amazon kept it from first place.
Business Insider reporter, Avery Hartmans wrote about her hellish and "extraordinarily frustrating" experience at an Apple Store.
"Having no clear points of contact or direction is confusing for all types of customers, even someone who knows exactly what they need and how to ask for it," she says. "And while doing away with traditional cash registers seems on its face like a great retail innovation, it doesn't work in a busy store."
In 2016, Apple retail boss Angela Ahrendts changed the shopping experience to resemble "town squares" where customers can congregate, but the initiative seems to be backfiring. From our assessment of the ten brands topping the RQ survey this year, it appears consumers prefer convenience and efficiency over aesthetics and innovations that seem tone-deaf to their busy lives.
At #1, Wegmans has been widely praised for being a values-based company and, in keeping with its family-owned heritage, the company offers schedule flexibility, opportunities for growth and thoughtful gestures like hot chocolate for employees working outside in the cold.
“The store really cares about its employees, offering services such as free flu shots, free meals for doing something simple (like checking your blood pressure), etc,” wrote a former employee on Glassdoor. “Wegmans provides a family atmosphere in a large company. It was like a home to me and not just a job,” a recent employee added.
Last year, the company also ranked second on Fortune’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For.
Nipping at Wegmans’ heels is the Georgian fast-food restaurant chain that invented the chicken sandwich. Chick-fil-A was also on Glassdoor’s list of best places to work for and former employees say it has “supporting coworkers and management.” “If you like helping people, it's a great place to do so and grow,” said another employee. Chick-fil-A also offers employees scholarship opportunities through its Remarkable Futures program — almost 36,000 scholarships over the last few years. Selected applicants can receive up to $25,000. And employees have even been hailed by BuzzFeed for their signature customer service.
- Tesla Motors
You can’t say Tesla without thinking about the remarkable mind behind commercializing space odysseys and making green cars mainstream: Elon Musk. Tesla’s slogan “leave your mark on the world” permeates the workplace as one current employee notes that the work culture is “centered around what's best for you.” The employee also described being “surrounded by innovation and great management. People actually work as a team. Hard work is recognized.”
In 2015, Product Specialist Victoria Danahy wrote about declining a more lucrative position at Apple to stay at Tesla. Tesla workers don’t care about the “I work for a sexy company” status, she said. They are immersed in the meaning their work carries, which is embodied in part of the company’s mission statement: “To accelerate the advent of sustainable transport.”
“It is a known fact that Tesla employees work long hours, and don't get paid as well as other tech companies,” wrote Danahy. “But they aren't taken advantage of because they know very well what they are in for before signing the dotted lines.”
Employees have commended the multinational package delivery company for offering tuition reimbursements, opportunities for growth and “amazing” benefits. Last year, WLKY reported UPS’s plans to offer retention bonuses, and hire hundreds of package handlers in northern Kentucky. The plan was part of the company’s School-to-Work program. There is also a strong sense of camaraderie among workers; in 2017, UPS workers in Alabama came together to donate a car to a co-worker.
- Publix Super Markets
In addition to being among the top five in this year’s Harris Poll RQ list, Publix has also been on Fortune’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For for the past 19 years. Senior Fortune Editor, Christopher Tkaczyk worked undercover for five days at Publix to find out why this supermarket that operates in only six states in the South East has such an attractive work environment. Employees told Tkaczyk how much they “love” working at Publix and associates brought “joy and enthusiasm” to the stores, which they partly own through stock shares. Publix also covers half or the entire tuition of employees seeking to advance their education.
“Cashiers and truck drivers can retire as millionaires if they have enough stock and have been working on the job long enough,” Tkaczyk said.
On March 14, thousands of high school students across the U.S. walked out of their classrooms to protest against gun violence in the country. From New Jersey to California, students participated in the 17-minute walkout, carrying placards and chanting “enough” as they signaled their discontent with the country’s current gun laws and honored the 17 students killed in the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“It’s a really important topic for students all over America, especially for those affected by it,” said Nina Gerzema, a ninth grade student who took part in the walkout with her classmates at the Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York. The students marched to Washington Square Park where they lined up against the road. “Cars were honking at us; no one was sure if it was good honking or not.”
“It felt like being a part of something that had been going on for a long time; it felt like carrying on an issue affecting a lot of Americans today,” she added.
The students' rallying cry for new gun control laws come on the heels of new findings from the Harvard CAPS-Harris poll, which show that 61% of voters support banning AR-15 rifles, the same weapon used by the gunman at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And a 2015 Harris poll also found that over seven in ten Americans (73%) favor restrictions on firearms sales/ownership.
“I hope eventually there will be no more guns at all, especially around students,” Gerzema said. “And there will be no more disruptions to a young generation that is already being exposed to a more harsh world.”
Multitudes of students are also expected to congregate at Washington D.C. on March 24 for a March for Our Lives protest and another national school walkout is scheduled for April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting.
The Harris Poll RQ® study identifies the 100 most visible companies identified by U.S. consumers and ranks these companies based on their reputation in six different categories: Emotional Appeal, Products & Services, Social Responsibility, Vision & Leadership, Workplace Environment, and Financial Performance. This proprietary research model is uniquely designed to take the pulse of the public and understand how a company is perceived in modern culture. While other models measure reputation in a vacuum, the RQ® starts fresh each year by surveying the public's top-of-mind awareness of companies who either excelled or faltered in society.
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