Grocery stores sure have changed over the past decade. Today, not only are they bigger and ‘better’ carrying a plethora of items to suit anyone palettes but they are also designed to save the consumer time. The grocery store, once a place to buy fresh fruits and veggies, meats and breads have turned into super centers where you can buy groceries, get your hair cut and tires rotated and pick up anything from a new vacuum to some paint for your living room.
Even so, there is one huge problem with most grocery stores. Despite streamlined and self-check out aisles that literally drape the front of the stores, there never seems to be enough folks hired to work the registers during the busier times of the days. One would think that big corporate grocers would pay as much attention to customer service as they do to the items they put on the shelves to pad their bottom line. But given any rush hour, pre-dinner dash to the grocery store when you rush in to get something as simple as a can of cream of chicken soup for a recipe, you are certain to find nothing but long lines. Lunch hours are no different. And while the so-called self-checkout counters are aimed at being a time saver, they can often be anything but, with all the discrepancies between the weight of your shopping bags and the time it takes a clerk to ‘clear your screen.’
As consumers today, we have perfected convenience in our lives. It seems that most aspects of our lives are clear cut and easy to manage, until you get to the grocery store. Spend an hour shopping and then another 30 minutes trying to check out and it is certain to hurdle most of us back to a longing for customer service interested mom and pop grocers. Unfortunately, big business and the allure of convenience have greatly superseded the customer. Sure, you may be able to get everything you need from groceries to oil for your car, but you are certainly paying for the convenience with your time. For one thing, the size of these massive grocery stores alone takes quite a bit of time to navigate. Going in for one thing? Jus hope that one thing is not at the very back of the store where you have to literally wind through cart traffic to get your item, then wait behind people with cartfuls of groceries.
Think self-check out lines are there for your convenience? Think again. For every self-check out line in a grocery store, there is one less person working in the store. Because unless you visit Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve, you can be pretty sure that the 19 manual check out registers will NOT be manned at all. And you will be forced to wait in line. Ice cream melt much?
The reality is that grocery shopping is a time allotted chore. In other words, people do it when they have time to do it. So the last thing that they want to do is wait in long lines. One US chain, Kroger realizes that time equates to money and has been mass installing infrared sensors in their stores to automatically detect when more check out lanes and personnel are needed at the front end. If you have walked into a Kroger using this technology, you will see the light boards at the front of the store. Kroger Execs realize that the key to customer loyalty is putting the customer first, and this means more than just offering the best price on merchandise. It means getting in touch with ways, using technology, to make the grocery shopping experience more enjoyable for the customers. According to Reuters, around 67% of all grocery consumers are loyal to their grocery store choice, and next to price the biggest reason that people switch stores altogether is based on customer service and wait times. Additionally, marketing experts believe that getting consumers OUT of the store more quickly when they are ready to leave, can create more dollar spent while they are in the store.
Every day, it is not uncommon to see a cart full of groceries withering near a check out lane. This, the result of a consumer fed up with the long lines and lack of personnel working the registers. Consumers today are not as naïve and with amazing access to the best pricing logistics in their area though phone and computer apps, they last they are going to do is linger longer and feel unappreciated and take advantage of when its time to hand over the money.
Grocery stores today need to be mindful of the time it takes the consumer to check out. Installing registers and self-check out registers is simply not enough. And waiting for a new cashier to come aboard when you are 5 deep in line with frozen foods is simply not enough either. Simple data, and managerial skills should be able to help stores know their peak hours and employ enough manpower during peak times to accommodate customer flow. The point is that just because a store is open 24 hours, doesn’t mean consumers should have to shop at 2am, to feel as if there time is valued.
So what can you do to help the problem? Complain. Ask for management. Don’t just stand there seething because you are in a hurry and there are only 5 people at the registers. If you really love your grocery store, then write to top management and use social media to gain the attention of what you need in a store. Share your experiences and ensure that the store you like to shop at, is pulling double duty by being mindful and offering quality AND customer service to earn YOUR business. After all, while the shareholders may hold the money, you – the consumer, hold the future success of the store.