We all have to eat. Where we buy our groceries is a matter of choice and there are many. However, even with the option of the digital marketplace, Americans shop at the physical grocery store and spend a good portion of their budget there. According to a Wall Street Journal article by Heather Haddon, on April 11th, Kroger, one of the largest supermarket chains in the country, is bulking up their staffing. Their goal is to hire an additional 11,000 people and put more workers in the store, focusing on the customer, instead of adding staff to their Cincinnati headquarters.
What a concept! I agree. As easy as it might be to order online and have groceries delivered, people enjoy the shopping experience, most especially when buying perishable items. There is something to be said for examining the tomato that will be part of your salad or the chicken you will roast for dinner. Employees to answer your questions and assist and keep the shelves stocked are a necessity.
Kroger is going in the right direction. Hiring more cashiers, produce clerks, and workers for online pick-up service is step one. Then there should be step two. Training hires to provide exceptional customer service must be part of the protocol. Stock clerks, cashiers, managers, and workers for online grocery-pickup operation should be taught how to welcome every customer in the store and how to effectively help them. Just hiring more staff is not enough but certainly be a differentiator when everyone is on the same wavelength about the value of customer service. In a 2017 blog I wrote…
Grocery stores, which by their very nature require customers to visit frequently, have the greatest opportunity to use the human interaction to their advantage to create and build customer loyalty. When customers interact with an associate who knows their name, buying preferences, kid’s schools, etc. they won’t be as tempted to drive to a competitor who offers the fastest and most reliable self-service check-out. While I can’t guarantee that the most personable cashier is going to stop online purchasing or trying a new store in town, I know that if your business doesn’t start with the human-connection and work backwards, there will be significantly less repeat business.
Kroger has a long history, founded in Cincinnati in 1883. As stated, it is the largest supermarket chain in the US and the second largest retailer behind Walmart. Kroger was the first to install electric scanners in the 1970s and established formalized customer research to get feedback from the customers in order to create a more positive shopping experience. In a Barron’s article on May 12thof this year, Credit Suisse analysis has rated the company to outperform. Their reasoning is that even though Kroger prices are slightly higher, the store offers better service, better produce, and a large assortment of items. Kroger’s ClickList, a click and collect online service, scored higher in customer satisfaction than other delivery services, including Amazon and Peapod.
So, as a customer experience thought leader, I say bravo to the leadership at Kroger. If Kroger can create a good experience for the customer and have enough staff and the right staff to service the individual, then people will keep coming back for more.