Progressive Grocer - May 2010 - (Page 26)

Best Practices Identifying trends to boost productivity Starting at the Top The third installment in a series of research and best practice sharing focuses on Customer Relations and Competition — and the integral role played by owners and managers in both. By Sally A. Malchow, M.A. O ver the years, many well-respected studies have shown a link between employee satisfaction and operational metrics like customer satisfaction, productivity and financial results. The proprietary database of organizational survey results from SUPERVALU University’s work with independent retailers also suggests a correlation between a positive work environment and employee perceptions about strong customer relations. stores that perform well in this area include a policy of rotating management onto evening shifts and a standard procedure for shift change communication. Comments by employees in stores that scored low in the category showed a correlation between a poor work environment for employees and poor service for customers. Specifically, employees mentioned poor treatment by managers, disrespect, issues with scheduling, and understaffing. Others pointed to incomplete training for their roles, being asked to fill in for different positions with which they weren’t familiar, a lack of communication about store initiatives, and poor cleaning procedures. While all 12 categories of the survey are opinion-based, employees of all levels would have the most direct responsibility for Customer Relations. Therefore, the questions in this category are more likely to be perceived as a direct reflection of their own performance. This may be one reason that the cumulative scores for this category were ranked the highest. Another reason may be that independent retailers focus on customer service as a differentiating factor to compete against larger chains and supercenters. Competition Customer Relations In the Customer Relations category, survey ratings and comments centered on a culture of respect within the store, such as “friendly” interactions with co-workers and customers. Several comments cited having products stocked at all times as a specific example of customer service being a priority. High-scoring stores also had structured customer service training programs for employees, creating a common expectation and language of service. The questions on which independent retailers scored the lowest in this category had to do with staffing. Commonly, the most experienced employees — including management — tend to work during the day. However, the busiest sales time usually begins after 4 p.m. Best practices for 26 • Progressive Grocer • May 2010 Stores that scored the highest in the Competition category were perceived by their employees to have a strategy that positions their strengths against the competition. Comments from the highest-scoring stores indicated that competitive pricing and good customer service were priorities and added to their competitive advantage. Some stores said that offering quality signature products that meet customer needs was a key differentiator. Employees of high-scoring stores in the category also noted that advertising was well thought through, up to date and fresh. Stores that scored low in the category indicated a lack of strategy to compete and were unaware of current competitors’ strategies. Comments by employ- ees of low-scoring stores listed issues with poor work environment, store appearance, product quality, selection and pricing. The Competition category is unique in that it is the one area where most associates are likely to be uninformed. If a company has decided who it is and what it wants to be to its customers, its employees tend to fall into three groups: the associate knows the position and strategy; knows the position and strategy exist, but isn’t privy to them or doesn’t fully understand them; or knows nothing about the position or strategy. Historically, there’s been a significant lack of comments for this category, which would indicate that most people fall into the third group. This could mean that owners and managers are missing a tremendous opportunity to build motivation, teamwork and productivity into their staffs. To be competitive, grocery retailers need to define their vision, market and position, and then communicate that vision and train their employees how to provide it. Best-in-class companies have associates at the lowest levels that know the strategy and understand what their role is to help execute it. Editor’s Note: SUPERVALU University is a research, consulting, planning, facilitation, training, education and development organization that has been working with retail and supply chain professionals since 1957. A H E A D O F W H AT ’ S N E X T

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Progressive Grocer - May 2010

Progressive Grocer - May 2010
Nielsen’s Shelf Stoppers/ Spotlight: Candy/Non-ChocolateCandy
Super 50: Steadfast Leaders
The Lempert Report: ConAgra, Celebs Battle Child Hunger
Best Practices: Starting at the Top
Wake-up Call: Coupons Make a Comeback
Store of the Month: Roots and Wings
Harold Lloyd on … Making a Difference: Why Work as a Clerk?
Experience at Large: Put Your Best Customers to Work
Confection: Sweetening the Pot
Tea: Brewing up Sales
Non-alcoholic Beverages: Summer Quenchers
Summer Grilling Special: What a Gas!
Produce: Local and Lovin’ it
IDDBA Show Preview: Recipe for Success
Trends: The Summertime Freeze
Meats & Cheeses: Brown-bagging Sales
Food Industry Insights: Leadership for the Future
Tech Toolbox: A Look at the Latest Solutions
Out of the Box: The Latest Tools of the Trade
Roundtable: The Executioners
Foodservice: Green Machines
What’s Next: Editors’ Picks for Innovative Products

Progressive Grocer - May 2010