As part of the CX University team, I have had the privilege of increasing my customer experience knowledge by leaps and bounds. Subsequently, I can’t help but use that knowledge when I am personally shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, online filling out surveys, or deciding which cable provider I want to use.
Recently, my knowledge of CX led me to compare the experiences I have with two different businesses. First, Kroger, a major grocery chain, which also includes Harris-Teeter, Fred Meyer, Food 4 Less, and several others in their “Family of Companies” (about 2,800 locations). Second, it was Wal-Mart, a store which we all know quite well and most likely have shopped, visiting one or more of their nearly 4,200 locations in the U.S.
Before I continue, the comparison between these two “superstores” may not be indicative of their brands throughout the country, but the experiences prove to me how vital it is to have CX as the cornerstone of every organization, and must include everyone, from the store manager to the workers collecting the carts in the parking lot.
I have shopped at both stores, located directly across the street from each other, numerous times in the past two years. At times, I have had wonderful experiences at the Wal-Mart, but this location could learn much from its neighbor. At Kroger, each time I walk into the store I feel like I want to be there to shop, and if I had more time, I would not mind browsing the aisles aimlessly searching for something I probably do not really need.
On the other hand, as I walk into Wal-Mart, I immediately look to the check-out lines and hope they are short so I can get in and out as quickly as possible. I have the items I need written down, or if I am not having a senior moment, they are burned into my memory. I desire to spend as little time as possible in their store, grab the items, pay for them, and leave. (I want to stress that it has nothing to do with the other shoppers. I enjoy being around people.)
Why the difference? Here we have two stores, physically located within several hundred feet of each other. At either store, I can but a bottle of ketchup and a pair of blue jeans. Both are major chains, competing for the same group of customers, and drawing from the same local employees. Their wages are equally competitive, and though Kroger prices on food is less, Wal-Mart’s prices of non-food items consistently beat out Kroger’s, plus there is the variety.
However, as I see it, customer experience cannot be as important to the leaders of this local Wal-Mart as it is to the leaders of the Kroger store. There can be no other explanation in my analysis. Often, I think Wal-Mart, or at least some of their stores, are still relying on their past, when Wal-Mart was the big-box store everyone wanted to visit, well, simply because they were Wal-Mart.
On the other hand, this local Kroger store has decided to use customer experience strategies and create a customer-centric culture with engaged employees, a pleasant shopping experience, and much more. The employees are more helpful, better trained, and seem to enjoy what they are doing.
Back at Wal-Mart, there are glimpses of good CX, but for some reason it is not being sustained. Maybe it is simply the store manager that makes the difference. If it is, then my guess is the manager of the Kroger store has been well-trained and knows the value of positive customer experience and the Wal-Mart manager has not. Customer experience training clearly makes a difference.