Staff Hold the Key to Market Share Battle in Supermarket Sector

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In CEXi’s 2015 Irish Customer Experience report, supermarkets made up the best overall performing sector for Customer Experience (CX) in Ireland. But they still have a way to go if they want to repair the charred relationship they have with the Irish consumer due to pricing scandals and supplier bullying. Unless supermarkets can build trust, brand loyalty will be impossible.

In the USA, the way employees demonstrate Empathy with customers is central to their growth strategy. Staff members are encouraged to engage face-to-face with customers, rather than being chained in storage managing cost efficiency processes or admin tasks. Integrity is also a major positive force in the USA. Unlike major UK and Ireland retailers, where trust is an issue, the USA leaders go out of their way to show they are acting in the customers best interests at all times. Publix Supermarkets, for instance, describe their mission as “making shopping a pleasure”. For many consumers in Ireland it is still viewed as a chore.

Supermarkets should no longer be defined by their price, range or quality. The experience they give their customer should be one of the defining factors in people’s choices.


Top 5 Supermarkets In Ireland As Stated In The 2015 CEXi Report

  1. Aldi
  2. M&S
  3. Supervalue
  4. Lidl
  5. Centra


Dialogue Recommendations

  • Supermarket employees need to be given more freedom when it comes to resolving customer problems. If employees are required to contact a supervisor each time there is a difficult complaint, the time wasted in contacting one can create hostility. If an employee is empowered in resolution then the process will flow much smoother.
  • HR need to make hiring decisions based on a person’s desire to go out of their way to make a customer’s experience pleasurable and not just whats on their CV. Training programmes should finish with trainees having to go out of their way to help a real customer. HR should also be involved in all CX execution programmes and make it their business to help employees understand them.
  • Supermarkets need to start leveraging technology to give amazing experiences. An updated store stock list and an in-store stock location mobile app could save time and effort for people in a rush. King Supers have Child friendly shopping trolleys to make the experience more enjoyable for kids and easier/ less stressful for parents. For some, their weekly shop is as much a social experience as it is a weekly routine. If supermarket’s were able to create an experience outside of shopping, then people would feel more comfortable going there for a quick get together.
  • Loyalty programmes should be re-structured to focus longevity, not purchasing.
  • The Irish Customer appreciates the human touch and a personalised recognition. Irish Credit Unions are the champions of doing this and have created a way to overcome the ‘big business’ mentality by making sure their staff recognise and acknowledge their regular customers. Supermarkets can do this by acting small.


World leaders In Grocery Retail


1000px-Waitrose_Logo.svgWaitrose Tops The Supermarket Sector In The UK For CX   

Despite the challenges faced by the supermarket sector in the UK, Waitrose not only retains its position in the top 10 for Customer Experience Excellence, but continues to progress up the ranks as the leading grocery retailer.

The rise of the discount chains and increased focus on value has affected the supermarket sector in the UK, but Waitrose’s ongoing experience success is in line with its sales performance which continues to outperform the industry.

As with its sister company, John Lewis, its employee-owned partnership model remains at the heart of the customer experience, and explains why the brand continues to stand out amongst its competitors for the pillars of Empathy and Integrity. With employees, known as ‘partners’, all having a say in company decisions and all entitled to bonuses based on the company’s financial performance, they have a vested interest in delivering an outstanding customer experience. As Waitrose’s advertising highlights: “when you own something, you care a little more” and it’s clear that Waitrose partners have a work ethic that means they will happily go the extra mile for their customers; from making the effort to locate an item that’s unavailable to offering nibbles while customers wait when queues are long. As such, Waitrose is well placed to avoid the emerging fight among other grocery retailers.


2000px-Publix_Logo.svgPublix Top All Grocery Retail Brands In The US For Time & Effort

As the leading grocery retail brand in the 2015 US CEE study, family run Publix is also the largest employee-owned company and one of the most profitable food businesses in America.

With the brand promise ‘where shopping is a pleasure’, it’s no surprise that Publix is the leading brand in the Pillar of Time and Effort. Renowned for keeping the personal touch going in a world which is becoming increasingly remote and fast paced, Publix strives to deliver experiences that are enjoyable. Take the example of Gage Boucher, an employee at Publix in Ormond Beach, Florida, who became famous on twitter when he stopped to help an elderly shopper tie his shoelaces. A simple act of kindness which impressed the world of social media, yet it is ingrained in the everyday process of Publix employees.

How do Publix achieve this across all stores? Employee ownership is the key. Like Waitrose in the UK, Publix culture is such that they believe if they take care of associates (all staff who work over 1,000 hours get shares in the business after a year of employment), they in turn will take care of the customers. A spokesperson for Publix said: “associate ownership is our secret sauce. Our associates understand that their success is tied to the success of our company and therefore, we must excel at providing legendary service to our customers.” All employees are the champion of customer experience at Publix.

As Publix’s president, Randal T. Jones, states “we believe that there are three ways to differentiate: service, quality and price. You’ve got to be good at two of them, and the best at one. We make service our number one, then quality and then price”. In a sector where price wars often dominate, this proves that the focus shouldn’t always be on low prices.

Source for world leaders in grocery Retail

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Dialogue are Europe’s first Customer Experience design agency and are founders of which launched Ireland’s first CX league table in Sept 2015 – Click Here To View. Dialogue recognises that most clients are buried under customer insight. We take these insights and turn them into great Customer Experience actions.

Dialogue will design and deliver remarkable CX that will differentiate your brand and get your customers to sell on your behalf. See for more info.



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