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Why the Human Touch Still Matters in Grocery

Knowledgeable, friendly staff are key to improving shoppers’ in-store experiences.

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Why the Human Touch Still Matters in Grocery
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Whether using home delivery, ordering curbside pickup, or shopping in-store—not to mention third-party services like Instacart—consumers have more ways to grocery shop than ever before. Diving into 25 different customer journeys (such as browsing or checking out) with Bain’s NPS Prism® benchmarking platform, we found that not all of these channels are created equally.

The latest NPS Prism data shows that shoppers tend to love many parts of the online experience, such as filling their carts or selecting substitutes. But when it comes to shopping in stores, similar parts of the customer journey—like searching for products, checking out, and even talking to staff members—have a much higher likelihood of disappointing customers.

To improve these customer experiences, brick-and-mortar grocers can utilize their unique advantage over online shopping: the human touch. For instance, when shoppers are unable to find items, interacting with a knowledgeable staff member can rescue the experience, boosting customers’ Net Promoter ScoreSM—a measure of their likelihood to recommend a store or brand—by a whopping 86 points (see Figure 1). And when shoppers speak to a friendly cashier at checkout, it can bump their Net Promoter Score by 84 points, turning a grating experience into a delightful one.

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The human touch is so important that customers penalize grocers for having unfriendly staff more than twice as much as they do for having difficult-to-find staff (see Figure 2). Unfriendly staff can result in a massive 110-point drop in Net Promoter Score, versus a 45-point drop due to unavailable staff.

Improving staff friendliness can be challenging even in the best of times, let alone during a widespread labor shortage. However, Bain research shows a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and perceived employee friendliness (see Figure 3).  

For a step change in employee satisfaction, leadership teams can start by asking themselves a few questions:

  • Are our hiring plans aligned to our most critical customer touchpoints?
  • Do we have the right processes in place to consistently reinforce the right behaviors?
  • Are we gathering consistent, actionable feedback on the issues that most affect our customer experience?
  • Where can we improve our incentive structure for employees, beyond higher wages?

Net Promoter®, NPS®, and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld. Net Promoter Score℠ and Net Promoter System℠ are service marks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.

NPS Prism® is a registered trademark of Bain & Company, Inc.

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Net Promoter®, NPS®, NPS Prism®, and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks and Net Promoter Score℠, NPSx℠, and Net Promoter System℠ are service marks of Bain & Company, Inc., NICE Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.