Announcing the Top Bananas and Bad Apples of the Grocery Customer Experience

In a recent Consumer Reports survey, one-third of respondents said they had switched grocery stores. Say what!?

As someone who is extremely loyal to his grocer, shops at the same time on the same day every week, and makes shopping lists in painstaking aisle order, the thought of switching grocery stores is tantamount to moving to Turkmenistan and taking up a new trade. Why would anyone do that?

Forty-three percent said they made the switch for lower prices, about 25 percent cited poor selection, long lines, or lousy food, 17 percent blamed employee rudeness, and 14 percent cited the crowds. Of the 27,208 participants, more than half (56 percent) had at least one complaint about their current store and almost a third cited two or more. The biggest complaint was not enough open checkouts, followed by congested or cluttered aisles and advertised specials that were out of stock. Other irritants included inept bagging, missing prices, and scanner overcharges.

So who fared the best and worst among the 55 stores mentioned? Among the top stores were Costco (the no-frills warehouse where you can pick up a 10 pound block of aged cheddar along with a bag of 36 crew socks), Trader Joe’s (with a cult-like fan base), and Whole Foods (where even the body wash is free-range and grass-fed).

Unfortunately, the nation’s largest grocer and the chain with the most evaluators in the survey fared the worst. Yes, Walmart, the mega store that touts “Save Money. Live better.” is only living up to half its credo? 80 percent of evaluators had at least one problem such as lack of open checkouts, out-of-stock regular items, indifferent employees, spotty pricing, and confusing store layout. But you can save money. Despite its problems and sub-par perishable foods, Walmart was praised for low prices. Yes, I know that banana is brown and spotted, but it’s only a nickel!

Ironically, the chain’s warehouse-club sibling, Sam’s Club, outscored Walmart in key ratings categories — service, perishables, cleanliness, even price. Yes, the warehouse store got better marks for service than the regular store. Wal-Mart spokesperson Danit Marquardt said the company has “taken significant efforts” over the last several years to ensure the quality of its meat and produce. Walmart is “more committed than ever to delivering our customers the products, prices and store experiences that exceed their expectations,” she said in a statement.

One has to believe that Walmart mystery evaluates its stores and surveys its customers on a regular basis. So how does this happen? Does the simple omnipresence of a business reduce its need to provide a positive customer experience? One thing is for certain, stores that don’t keep their customers happy should expect to see them go elsewhere. We’ll be curious to see how Walmart fares in the next survey.

Ensure that your business is delivering a customer experience that keeps them coming back for more. Contact Electrum Branding for service solutions designed to improve customer satisfaction, brand loyalty and future sales.