Rebellion at Dollar General! A Challenge to CX Strategies?

Employee experience is receiving increasing attention in our experience ecosystem. Companies increasingly recognize that employee experience can be positive, powerful, and influential in engaging customers.

IBM Smarter Workforce Institute and Globoforce’s Work Human Research Institute’s research1 found that organizations need influential leaders who can provide clarity and direction and focus on practices that drive employee experiences. These practices include building organizational trust, supportive coworker relationships, meaningful work, rewards and recognition, empowerment, and work-life balance.

Employees seek to be part of an ecosystem where they have a sense of belonging, purpose, achievement, happiness, enthusiasm, and excitement at work. These are critical milestones in the employee journey. Delivering the employee value proposition hinges on how effectively an organization communicates and acts.

Organizations must also build recognition and reward structures to keep employees, at the very least, at the minimum threshold of commitment to the organization’s agenda. Employees in an ecosystem infused with trust, meaningful work, recognition, rewards, and empowerment will perform at a higher level, demonstrate discretionary effort, and stay with the organization.

IBM and Globoforce (2017) note that organizations must pay attention to three vital areas.

  1. Environment: Characterized by trust and supportive relationships.
  2. Work: Work is meaningful and provides recognition and growth.
  3. Person: People have a voice and balance work and non-work life.

Pink (2009) states that when employees have a purpose in their work, are provided with opportunities to develop mastery in what they do, and have autonomy, they will be engaged. And when they are so engaged, they experience “Flow.” As WH Auden wrote, these are people who are deeply in the moment, autonomous, and engaged.

This is an ideal reality for organizations to achieve. What happens when all these dimensions of engagement are out of sync?

The Dollar General Rebellion!

Dollar General is a 19,643-store chain that offers everyday essentials at affordable prices and generates an annual revenue of $37.8 billion. Their mission is simple- Serving Others since its founding in 1939. They proudly offer a hassle-free and convenient shopping experience to purchase low-price and frequently needed items such as food, snacks, health, beauty aids, cleaning supplies, basic apparel, houseware, and seasonal items.

They boast of serving customers and their communities with value and offering employees career opportunities. They claim their mission drives their pursuit of ways to serve their customers, communities, and employees. Indeed, 75% of the US population lives within 5 miles of every Dollar General store.

On March 12, 2024, The Dollar General store in Mineral Point, WI, rebelled against the company, and the entire store staff quit. In their rebellion, they noted how much they loved their customers, but they could no longer accept the failure of leadership to recognize that employees were underpaid and overworked.

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Employees wrote, ‘Although we love and adore our customers, we must stand for the community and not allow corporate greed…” to reign. They stated that policies, processes, and procedures need to change! Trina Tibolet, the general manager in the store, said: ‘This is something we’ve been talking about the last couple of months and continued to talk until the evening of March 12 when we walked away. She said, “This weekend was my first time off since Christmas.” She explained staff were underpaid and overworked, adding she’d been working seven days a week for months because she, as manager, was only allotted so many paid hours to give her staff. She said the staff didn’t want to leave, but they wanted their work to be appreciated.

They posted a letter explaining their decision to leave. They loved their customers but could no longer tolerate corporate greed. These employees took a stand because of the failure of leadership. Leaders must understand employees’ influence and the demands for a healthy employee experience ecosystem.

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Company Response: Vague Pretenses

The situation at Dollar General highlights a series of challenges and lessons for organizations in today’s rapidly evolving business environment. Employees voiced their dissatisfaction through public protests, leading to temporary store closures under vague pretenses by the company. This scenario reflects broader trends of consumer empowerment, demanding transparency, quality, and fairness, which Dollar General seems to struggle with, amid internal conflict and unclear communications.

Key insights include the critical importance of transparent communication in an age where information is readily accessible and consumer expectations are higher than ever. Dollar General’s ambiguous responses to internal issues and unethical practices have eroded trust, necessitating a more open and honest approach to regain consumer confidence.

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Legal and ethical challenges further complicate the company’s position. Settlements over deceptive pricing practices, ADA violations, and safety fines underscore a pattern of ethical lapses and prioritization of profits over people, damaging its reputation and underscoring the need for ethical conduct.

Effective leadership, a sense of belonging and purpose for employees, recognition of their efforts, and a balanced approach to work and life are identified as crucial elements for creating a positive workplace culture. These components are vital for employee engagement, commitment, and overall well-being.

The case of Dollar General serves as a poignant reminder of the consequences of neglecting employee needs and the importance of fostering a supportive, transparent, and ethical work environment. Organizations must prioritize these aspects to prevent dissatisfaction and build a resilient, committed workforce capable of navigating the complexities of the modern business landscape.

Conclusion

The evolving dynamics of employee experience demand a proactive approach from organizations to cultivate a workplace environment that values and supports its workforce. Companies can avoid pitfalls by focusing on effective leadership, recognition, empowerment, a healthy balance between work and life, and creating a thriving ecosystem that benefits employees and customers.

POSTSCRIPT: A PARADOX FOR CX PROFESSIONALS.

As customer experience (CX) professionals, we champion the belief that outstanding experiences for both employees and customers are key to business success. Yet, how often do we face skepticism regarding the return on investment (ROI) of CX initiatives? How frequently do we observe reluctance from leadership to back these endeavors?

Considering the situation at Dollar General, with its neglect of employee welfare, unethical pricing strategies, and unclear communication, one might expect significant repercussions on the brand’s reputation and business performance.

However, introducing a surprising twist to this narrative, LSEG Data & Analytics, a leading global provider of financial market data and infrastructure, forecasts a 6 to 6.7% increase in Dollar General’s sales for 2024, reaching $40.33 billion.

This scenario presents a fascinating paradox that indeed invites a deep dive into the nuanced relationship between customer experience (CX), employee welfare, business ethics, and financial performance. Here are four provocative questions that emerge from the context provided:

How can CX professionals argue for the long-term benefits of CX investments in light of evidence suggesting short-term financial gains despite poor CX practices? This question probes the apparent contradiction between the immediate financial success of businesses like Dollar General and the long-held belief in the CX community that superior customer and employee experiences are essential for sustained business success.

Does the forecasted sales increase for Dollar General challenge the notion that ethical practices and employee welfare are integral components of a successful CX strategy? This question explores the possibility that financial performance may not always correlate with ethical business practices and good employee experiences, prompting a reevaluation of what constitutes effective CX strategy.

How can CX professionals leverage instances of perceived CX failure with subsequent financial success to gain leadership buy-in for CX initiatives? This question suggests a strategic approach to using paradoxical outcomes as leverage, potentially arguing that investing in CX could even further enhance financial performance, using Dollar General’s success despite its flaws as a baseline for the untapped potential of good CX practices.

In the face of financial success stories like Dollar General’s, how do CX professionals combat internal skepticism about the value of investing in CX? Given a scenario where financial data does not align with CX principles, this question delves into strategies for CX professionals to articulate the value of CX investments, perhaps by highlighting risks of long-term brand damage or missed opportunities for even greater success through superior CX and employee satisfaction.

References:

  1. IBM Corporation (“IBM”) and Globoforce Limited (“Globoforce”), White Paper, (2017)
  2. Pink, D, Drive, (2009), Riverhead
  3. https://fox8.com/news/ohio-dollar-general-stores-temporarily-shut-down-amid-overcharging-lawsuit/
Mohamed Latib

Mohamed Latib

Mohamed Latib, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of CX University. Mohamed has been involved in CX work for over 30 years. In his previous company that he co-founded he implemented customer feedback solutions for such brands as Kohl’s Department Stores, Fossil, TransUnion, The World Bank, Project Management Institute, Citi Bank and many others. He provided executive briefings going past key metric dashboards to identify strategic insights. Mohamed has also designed and delivered numerous CX workshops and training modules for Delaware North, Konica Minolta, Crowe Horwath, Singapore Post, Malaysia Telekom, and Reliant Energy among many others. He has led numerous culture transformation initiatives and has done senior executive development work for Air Products, Pennsylvania Power & Light, Siemens, Smithfield Meats, Dominion Textiles, Unisys, and others. The author of many articles and professional papers, Dr. Latib, holds an MS in Psychology, MBA and a Ph.D. in Business Administration (Organizational Behavior, Human Resources, and Strategy) from the Fox School of Business and Management, Temple University.

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