Tag Archives: supermarket customer service

Tech-Driven Improvements an Emerging Trend in Supermarkets

The mounting demand for e-commerce due to COVID-19, and the expectation that it will be necessary to continue offering many of the “new normal” services post-COVID, has resulted in a number of grocery chains making major changes to their infrastructure and improvements in their processes.

As reported by SupermarketNews, some of the process and facility enhancements include:

  • Conversion of store or shelf-space to accommodate online order fulfillment
  • Creation of automated micro-fulfillment centers (MFC’s) to support automated fulfillment for grocery delivery, sometimes referred to as “dark stores” since they have no retail space
  • Curbside pickup
  • Installation of automated pickup points, enabling customers and delivery personnel to drive up, scan a code and retrieve their orders

The expectation is that those retailers who are able to convert store space or operate MFC’s will be better able to scale their business as the demand for e-commerce continues to grow.

“For grocers to adapt and stay relevant — and for consumers to eat the cost of the last mile — grocery retailers need to embrace curbside pickup,” said Rob Wilson and Shang Saavedra in a recent report from L.E.K. Consulting.

“Given that stores are designed for optimal in-store shopping, it’s often inefficient for staff to wander through aisles to assemble orders and, when it comes to operating margins, far from sustainable. Moreover, stores have been forced to quickly create online pickup areas, leading to messy front-of-store experiences for consumers.”

Clearly the costs associated with some of the major changes such as building stand-alone MFC’s favor the larger retailers. One possible solution for smaller chains might be the use of “solution partners” to get the job done.

Either way, and as noted in a recent SupermarketNews article, all indicators say that online grocery shopping and curbside pickup are here to stay.

Supermarkets Providing COVID Solutions

As reported in several Supermarket News articles, supermarkets are stepping-up to help customers more easily protect themselves from the pandemic.

Some specific examples of what might be considered an “extra” component of the customer experience:

  • Publix expanded COVID-19 vaccinations to over 100 pharmacies, expanding their collaboration with the state of Florida to 12 counties.
  • H-Vee expanded its coronavirus diagnostic services, and is planning to offer COVID-19 rapid antibody testing at more than 250 pharmacy locations.
  • Ralphs launched a program for administering COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Meijer partnered with the state of Michigan and will administer COVID-19 vaccine at select stores in Wayne County to patients 65 or older.
  • Wegmans has partnered with state and local government officials to offer the COVID-19 vaccine at select pharmacy locations in New York State, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.
  • H-E-B has launched a registration portal on its website for people who are looking to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and is administering doses as supplies last.
  • Walmart will start providing inoculations in the city of Chicago as well as in Indiana along with six other states. The company has already been providing vaccinations in New Mexico and Arkansas.

DoorDash Now Offering On-demand Grocery Delivery

According to a recent article published by Restaurant News, “last-mile” food delivery provider DoorDash is now offering on-demand grocery delivery arena, led by the launch of its new DashPass service.

DashPass enables customers to place orders with participating grocery retailers at DoorDash.com or via the DoorDash mobile app and have their groceries delivered directly to their homes by DoorDash.

Defined as the movement of goods from a transportation hub to the final delivery destination, the focus of “last mile delivery” is to deliver items to the end user as fast as possible.

DashPass delivery service is provided via a $9.99 monthly subscription, for which members receive unlimited free deliveries and reduced service fees for orders of at least $12. Customers also can order groceries via DoorDash on a per-order basis for a $3.99 standard delivery fee (depending on the service area), with no minimum order amount.

In a separate article published by SupermarketNews, it was reported that DoorDash, which recently became publicly-traded, built its reputation as the country’s top food delivery provider by strategically going after suburban markets.

As consumers continue to exhibit an increasing demand for convenience as well as quality and choice, retailers and their strategic partners continue to respond with innovative solutions such as this.

Kroger’s Innovative Step-up

Spring-boarding from our previous post on emerging innovations within the supermarket industry, Kroger has exemplified such behavior by launching new new drive-thru test sites for coronavirus.

According to a recent SupermarketNews article, the chain will be offering free drive-thru testing for COVID-19 at 50 locations in more than 12 states by the end of May, and expects to have conducted up to 100,000 tests by that time.

So far, Kroger’s healthcare arm, said it has performed almost 8,000 tests in 30 locations.

The article goes on to quote Rodney McMullen, Kroger Chairman and CEO, as saying, “As part of Kroger’s commitment to help America reopen safely, we are proud to help expand access to COVID-19 testing as a partner in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public-Private Testing Partnership.”

Not only is the drive-thru aspect of Kroger’s testing model innovative, but so too is their methodology. Their sites use anterior nares or mid-turbinate nasal swab tests, which are designed to increase safety. The tests are completed in just a few minutes using self-administered test kits, and results are expected within about 48 hours.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Bill Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company and the author of Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways shared some great examples of how bad times have brought out the best in people and organizations.

Possibly this free testing being offered by Kroger will be remembered as such in the future?

SpartanNash Reducing Food Waste & Enhancing Customer Service with Flashfood

An earlier post featured SpartanNash for leveraging technology to enhance their online and order pick-up processes. Today we once again focus on the company as they have launched an innovative program to reduce food waste while enhancing customer service.

According to a recent Progressive Grocer article, SpartanNash is piloting a Flashfood mobile app at five of its West Michigan Family Fare stores, allowing customers to purchase meat, produce, seafood, deli items and bakery products that are nearing their “best-by” date at up to 50% off.

As you may know, Flashfood is a Toronto-based mobile app that operates in more than 440 grocery locations throughout Canada and the US.

After downloading the Flashfood app, customers can select a participating Family Fare store, choose items, pay for them directly on the app, and then pick up their items at the store’s customer service counter, where the purchased items are stored in refrigerators.

“Customer convenience is key with the app,” said Matt Bennett, Director Retail Consumer Innovation at SpartanNash. “This app is a win-win for customers and the environment.”

Read the full article…

Tech Driving Customer Experience at SpartanNash

SpartanNash is leveraging GPS location technology to improve curbside service in its Fast Lane online grocery pickup program. According to a recent SupermarketNews article, a number of the chain’s locations are now using Radius Networks’ location-based FlyBuy Pickup service with ShopperKit’s in-store grocery fulfillment software to bring out Fast Lane orders to customers as soon as they arrive at the store.

Referenced as a “click-and-collect platform,” the process begins when a customer places a Fast Lane curbside order. The order is fulfilled and the customer is notified when their groceries are ready for pickup. The customer can then share their location via mobile apps or a web browser to let their Fast Lane personal shopper know they’re heading to the store. That allows customers’ orders to be prepared and delivered to their vehicles the moment they pull into the pickup area.

“This new technology will completely change our customers’ experience with Fast Lane,” said Brian Holt, vice president of marketing for SpartanNash.

“Fast Lane already provides exceptional customer service, with overall satisfaction scores 30 points higher than the national average, as well as some of the nation’s leading fulfillment rates. And our new GPS location technology will only improve the ease and speed of the Fast Lane experience.”

This is another good example of how today’s supermarkets are leveraging technology and continuous process improvement to drive customer service and the shopping experience.

DogSpot at the Supermarket?

Happy Pets?

In case you haven’t heard, a DogSpot is a “smart sidewalk sanctuary, providing your dog a safe and cozy home away from home while you briefly go somewhere they aren’t allowed… without having to take risks like tying them up or leaving them in the car. “

According to a recent SupermarketNews article, Albertsons has become the latest supermarket chain to offer DogSpot. Other chains that have been testing the concept include Kroger and Stop & Shop.

“At Albertsons, we are always looking for ways to better serve our customers,” said John Colgrove, Albertsons intermountain division president.

DogSpot houses are app-connected and available on both iPhone and Android, offering customers quick and seamless access, according to the Brooklyn-based startup. Customers may reserve a house up to 15 minutes before use through the app if they’re anticipating a trip to the store or use an available house immediately upon arrival. The houses lock to allow only the customer’s specific app account access to the house while their dog is inside, to ensure the dog’s safety while the customer shops. They’re also temperature controlled with fresh air ventilation to keep an optimal temperature inside for the dog and equipped with UVC lights that sanitize the house automatically between each new session. Customers can monitor their dog through the DogSpot app’s puppy-cam feature while they shop. Cost is approximately thirty-cents per minute.

Another example of enhancing the shopping experience with higher levels of customer service and engagement!

New Level of Customer Service Goes “Beyond” Home Delivery of Groceries

Walmart is expanding the online grocery shopping experience by going “beyond” home delivery. According to a recent SupermarketNews article, certain Walmart stores are delivering groceries not just to more homes, but also inside them.

This new service will be launching in the fall when associates will deliver groceries right to a customer’s refrigerator, or to other designated areas inside shoppers’ homes, such as garages or pantries. Various methods are incorporated into the process to ensure security and to allow customers to actually view the delivery from remote locations.

“Online grocery remains a meaningful contributor to e-commerce growth,” Walmart’s Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs is quoted to say in the article. “Customers continue to really appreciate our grocery pickup and delivery offerings as we scale them across the U.S., …they want product faster than ever before, and Walmart is the best-positioned in the industry to deliver grocery same-day.”

Groceries Delivered & Put-Away in Your Home?

According to a recent posting on techcrunch.com, Walmart has announced that it will begin testing a new service that will allow customers with August smart home devices, like the August doorbell and security cameras, to have their packages and groceries delivered inside their home instead of left on the doorstep. Grocery orders won’t just be placed inside the house like the packages, but will be put away in the fridge and freezer, when appropriate.

The retailer says it will soon start this test in the Silicon Valley area with select customers who have opted into to try the new service.

Sounds like continuous process improvement and the trend toward innovative customer service continues!

Read the full story…

Employee Engagement Might Be the Key Differentiator for Lidl

Based on statistics published by smallbusiness.chron.com,  employee turnover averages 100 percent in the grocery industry. Cashiers, order fillers and stock clerks have the highest turnover rates, and the cost of replacing just one supermarket cashier is at least $3,637.

But more troubling than the cost, this turnover has a negative impact on the customer experience.

This perspective is consistent with information shared recently on fooddive.com, which states, “Never mind store designs, or prices, or any of the other issues potential competitors have been concerned about: While those issues are all important, so are the ways employees are treated… retaining employees helps to build a cohesive team and a solid shopping experience.

The article goes on to cite the rapid growth of German grocery chain Lidl, whose accelerated U.S. expansion is making many take notice. The grocery chain’s first 20 stores will open this summer in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

But along the lines of engaging employees, the chain has a plan to attract and retain the best talent by offering one of the most generous benefits and compensation packages in the industry. “The program is designed to ensure that Lidl U.S. employees are recognized and rewarded for their talents, feel valued for their contributions and are motivated to continue to grow their careers with us,” the article said.

Store associates will receive starting salaries of $12 per hour, plus benefits, according to a Lidl press release.  Possibly more important than the robust pay rate is the robust benefits plan, which includes medical, dental and vision insurance with flexible spending accounts, a 401(k) and retirement plan with employer contribution, life insurance, disability insurance, an employee assistance program, paid time off, time off for volunteering, commuter benefits and company sponsored social and fitness events.

Clearly Lidl leadership has a strong appreciation for its workforce and values the concept of employee engagement. If the correlation between employee engagement and customer satisfaction proves true, which we believe it will, it will be interesting to see what happens over the course of 2017, during which time Lidl plans to open 100 U.S. stores.