Category Archives: Customer service and loyalty

There a Supermarket That Wants to Earn My Business & Loyalty? Volume 20: Employee Engagement

Supermarkets are fortunate in that they have high-levels of face-to-face contact with their external customers every day.  They have so many opportunities to talk to their customers and to find out what their customers are thinking/buying/wishing for.  Employees are there in the stores, restocking shelves and produce, clearing aisles, answering questions, greeting people coming in the door, serving them at the deli, the sushi counter, the fish counter, the bakery, the pharmacy, the bank; cashing people out, bagging groceries, and saying thank you and good bye as the customers leave the store; clearing the parking lots of carts to make it easy for customers to park.  So, if any employer has easy access to its customers, it is a supermarket. 

It would follow, then, that to leverage this valuable opportunity supermarkets should put a strong focus on engaging customers. Of course, in order to succeed at this type of strategic interaction, an organization must have a workforce that is both trained and engaged.

But despite the fact they have a high-degree of access to their customers, supermarkets, like most businesses, struggle with Employee Engagement.  

A 2007 Gallup poll showed that over 70% of the US workforce was disengaged, and that nearly twenty-percent of this group were actively disengaged! Similarly, a Towers Perron (now Towers Watson) study done in the same year found that only 20% of companies have a fully engaged workforce.  (Personally, I find that number high and not believable!). 

Further, that same study indicated that those with a fully engaged workforce financially outperformed their peers and had less turnover. These findings confirmed data presented by Crawford International the year before, indicating that engaged workforces were substantially more productive and significantly more profitable. 

Engaged employees can not only gather useful data, but can also, and more importantly, help customers have a great, or at least a better experience. 

But how many supermarkets invest in employee engagement—not just “friendly training,” but real employee engagement? 
Employee engagement starts with the hiring process, and then moves through training, personal and organizational behavior, and ongoing senior management attention to Employee Engagement.  It’s not an event now and then, but rather, a deep and abiding way that defines a company, and the way it selects, trains, treats and values each employee and customer. 

Many times when I go to the supermarket, I shake my head and am stunned about the lost opportunities for Employee Engagement.  In the next few posts, we’ll be talking about Employee Engagement…when it happens…and when it doesn’t.        

Is There a Supermarket that Wants to Earn My Business & Loyalty? Volume 16: Private Label v. National Brands

Most recently, I was looking for my brand of bread and butter pickles, no sugar added. 

The slot where I had always found it was now plentifully stocked with the store brand.  Although they had my national brand in lots of other categories, the bread and butter pickles, no sugar added, was now store brand only.  So I bought and tried them.  They were pretty good—maybe not quite as good as I remembered my national brand to be, but good enough. 

Thinking about it later, it seems as though it is common now for the national brands to receive less shelf space, with more space devoted to store brands.   Do shoppers notice?  When they do notice, how do they react?  Are there certain items for which shoppers will readily substitute a store brand for the national brand?  Is it always the price that leads shoppers to do so? 

Often, the store brands are “just as good”….but are they just as good all of the time? Or is it just a perception problem?  Which items are shoppers least likely to switch from the national brand to the store brand?  Speaking personally, Heinz ketchup, Cheerios, Thomas’ English Muffins, Land ’o Lakes cheese and butter quickly come to mind…and next time, when I am in a different supermarket, I am going to look for my brand of bread and butter pickles, no sugar added…and check the price difference too.

How about you?  National brands?  Store brands?  What is your experience?  Like me, are you willing to substitute on some items, but not others?    How much less should we expect to pay for a store brand that is “just as good” as the national brand?

Is There a Supermarket that Wants to Earn My Business & Loyalty? Volume 11 – Out of Stock, but… An Opportunity for Great Customer Service!

I went to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon (again!) for a few items that I missed on my list from a couple of days ago.  I have been looking for the Pink Lady apples, which have been out of stock for several weeks.  Last week, I spoke to Sharon, who was working in the Produce Section.  She said they were out of stock and hoped to be getting stock soon.  I saw her again yesterday once again stocking produce.  I looked for the Pink Ladies…nothing on the shelves.  I spoke to her again about the Pink Ladies. 

She apologized, told me that she remembered me from last week and that the Pink Ladies are due in on Monday morning.  She thanked me for continuing to shop at the store and pursuing an item that I really liked.  She added that by mentioning and asking for the product, she would be on the lookout, try to do a better job keeping them in stock, watch the inventory and follow up with the Produce Manager.  Isn’t that a better way to handle a customer and an out of stock and keep customer loyalty, as opposed to what often happens?