The company polled 10,000 U.S. consumers over several weeks last year to get a pulse on which brands do the best job of engaging consumers. The firm rated 100 brands together, then by their respective categories: hotel, retail, banking and casual dining. The leaders in apparel: J. Crew, Nine West, Ann Taylor, Aeropostale, Chico's, Guess and American Eagle Outfitters.
The PeopleMetrics study also looked at links between Customer Engagement and financial performance. Overall, companies with more engaged customers outperformed those with less-engaged customers in terms of gross margin, earnings per share and return on equity.
Ranked together, J. Crew was fourth overall, per Frank Rowe, vice president of the firm. "The number one company was The Four Seasons," he says, adding that Williams Sonoma and Texas Roadhouse Grill were also number one in their respective categories.
He said that not surprisingly, luxury brands dominated the top of the lists (Ritz Carlton was No. 3 overall). Still, "One big surprise was Texas Roadhouse, a restaurant chain, which was in the top three in customer engagement. That's very interesting to us because there is clearly a connection between what your employees are saying and doing about the brand," says Rowe.
PeopleMetrics' study also considered what retail chains can do to build more engaged customers. In particular, the study revealed a strong link between engaged customers and engaged employees.
"Partly, it's based on expectation of customer: if you go to The Four Seasons and get Texas Roadhouse service, you won't be happy. But consumers who go to Texas Roadhouse like the energy around their service--the experience part of the dynamic is related to expectation of customers."
Other apparel retailers in the study were: Abercrombie & Fitch, Foot Locker, Men's Warehouse, The Gap, The Limited, and Urban Outfitters.