Three sure-fire ways to turn new fulfillment options into customer experience gold

Brick-and-mortar grocers are heading into a new year filled with challenges from employee retention to supply chain issues and the ongoing effects of the pandemic. One of the most nuanced challenges is figuring out how to accommodate, and profit, from the accelerated demand for different shopping experiences, such as online ordering and same-day delivery.

Although many grocers are frantically trying to implement such changes, it’s important to remember that offering more fulfillment options doesn’t always equal improved customer experience.

Picture this: You’ve been up and down every aisle at your local grocery store—twice—looking for that one last, sneaky little item from your shopping list. You’ve looked in the obvious and not so obvious places and while you’ve seen plenty of heads-down employees, focused on picking items for online orders or tending to a specific task, nobody has asked if you need help or even acknowledged your existence. So, you leave and hit up a different store in the hopes of a better experience.

Or this: A covid infection or close call means you’re quarantined and can’t leave home to do your own groceries, so you turn to delivery. When your food is finally left on your porch after hours of waiting, you notice your bread is squished and your produce just isn’t up to par (sigh).

This is precisely when offering more fulfillment options stops being a perk and turns into a missed opportunity.

Grocery Aisle

An innovation we’re starting to notice in grocery fulfillment is the use of micro-fulfillment centers and emerging technology. This is in part to reduce the number of in-store disruptors, but also because grocers like Wakefern and Kroger are realizing that the consumer expectation for more fulfillment options isn’t just a pandemic thing—it’s here to stay.

But before making things more complicated for your associates, it’s important to ensure that the basics are still being covered—and done well. Here’s some ways you can start taking advantage of fulfillment options to help differentiate your brand from a crowded field, rather than take away from it.

1. Clarify which tasks are urgent and which aren’t

When your #1 priority is customer service, but your associates are focused on their to-do list, it’s understandable that there would be some confusion on your frontline.

Being transparent about your expectations around employee performance, like taking a minute to walk customers to the item they’re searching for and then coming back to finish what they were doing, can help reassure staff that they’re still doing what’s expected even if they’re momentarily taken off-task.

2. Reinforce associate training every shift

Associate onboarding paths are packed with the top things you need them to know. But over time, your employees are likely to forget what they’ve learned if it isn’t reinforced.

Help your associates become masters of customer experience with reinforcement training that sticks.

Breaking down the training experience into 3-5 minutes of daily reinforcement actually works to make people remember what they’ve learned, so associates aren’t overconfident in the wrong knowledge or hesitant in the right knowledge (which hurts your customer satisfaction and, ultimately, your bottom line).

3. Give them feedback to correct poor behaviors

Often the reason for adding these services in the first place is to deliver better service to your customers. But when associates aren’t mindful of how much space they’re taking up in the aisles or the human cues from shoppers that need to be responded to urgently, the purpose of these offerings is lost.

By giving them the feedback they need to more effectively support the customer experience in these critical moments, they’ll have a chance to correct poor behaviors before they become major issues. And when the lines of communication are open, they’ll feel more comfortable telling you what they need to be successful, too.

The moral of the story? Quality beats quantity every time. Consumer values are changing, and your business should too. But in order to really see the benefits of beefing up your fulfillment options, your frontline associates have to be aligned with why you’re making these changes in the first place.

If you’re interested in having a conversation about the future of grocery fulfillment and how to stay on top with Axonify, connect with me on LinkedIn over here and let’s chat!

Evan Parkes is the Principle Learning Strategist at Axonify with over 30 years experience in Grocery and Retail. Based in Florida, Evan helps organizations achieve results using tech to deliver training and comms to frontline employees when they need it. His deep knowledge of the grocery business makes him a vital source of knowledge on industry trends and an advocate for frontline associates.

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.