Written by Vivek Jaiswal | Co-founder, Customer Guru
On first assessment, Trader Joe’s may not seem like a company that listens to customer feedback. The grocery chain, recognised for its private-label foods, has an 800 number that provides customers with a voice recording of store locations only. Seems like rather disastrous customer service, doesn’t it? Wrong, Trader Joe’s follows a different strategy to propitiate their customers.
Ask almost any Trader Joe’s customer and you will hear about the attentive employees, swift response times and an amazing retail customer experience. In addition, a study conducted by Market Force showed that Trader Joe’s triumphs in customer satisfaction. The study asked consumers to rate their last shopping experience with a grocer and whether they would recommend the store to others. Trader Joe’s raked highest followed by Publix and Whole Foods. Although these results vary among various studies, Trader Joe’s always ranks in the top five among supermarket chains.
Now, why did Trader Joe’s rank so high in customer satisfaction? The grocery store secured the highest rating in atmosphere and fast checkouts and clinched second on cleanliness, courteous staff, merchandise selection and accurate pricing. That’s just looking at the quantitative results. Trader Joe’s has also done a lot in terms of surpassing customer expectations and keeping them content.
Take for example, when Trader Joe’s decided to stock up on Marynne Aaronson favourite soy ice-cream cookie in their Reno, Nevada branch when she requested for it after tasting it at a Southern California branch. Or how about when the Phoenix Trader Joe’s decided to open well before their official opening hours – usually 9 am – just so that customers could shop at their convenient time.
At Trader Joe’s listening to their customers valued feedback is not about taking concerns to a call centre filled with trained customer service representatives. Rather, the management believes in direct human interaction; between customers and the captain and crew members, as their Hawaiian shirt attired managers and employees are called. In a quest to provide brilliant customer service, Trader Joe’s thinks that “grocery shopping should be fun, not another chore. So just relax and leave your worries at the door.”
According to a study conducted by Temkin Group, Trader Joe’s has earned second place in emotion ratings. The question asked was ‘Thinking of your most recent interactions with each of these companies, how did you feel about those interactions.’ Responses range from 1 (upset) to 7 (delighted) and the emotion rating is calculated as the percentage of consumers who select 6 or 7 minus the percentage who select 1, 2, or 3 – Similar to the Net Promoter Score®. A customer’s emotional experience is “the most significant driver of loyalty, especially when it comes to consumers recommending firms to their friends.”
Every day, Trader Joe’s works to improve its customers’ experience. They don’t just want to react to customer feedback but they want to effectively respond to it. Captains spend most of their day on the retail floor and directly interact with customers, immediately altering the store and its products to local needs. Moreover, crew-members are so responsive to customers that when asked about a product they instantly bring the product, open in and indulge in a taste test with the customer to see if they like it. Trader Joe’s also refunds your money for any product that you are not satisfied with; despite having been opened and consumed.
Additionally, to add to their unique business model, Trader Joe’s doesn’t offer any promotions or offers. When asked about this, their response is “”Sale” is a four-letter word to us. We have low prices, every day. NO coupons. NO membership cards. NO discounts. NO glitzy promotions or couponing wars at our stores. We offer the best everyday values, every day.”
So, How is it that Trader Joe’s consistently delivers such great customer experience?
1. It connects with customers on an emotional level
Trader Joe’s didn’t receive the highest emotion ratings for no reason. Customers who shop at Trader Joe’s are able to connect with employees and managers on a higher level. They don’t just want to think of grocery shopping as a tedious task, rather the crew-members want “you [to] have some fun with [your grocery shopping] at your neighbourhood Trader Joe’s.”
A very impressed customer, Ruth Leibowitz thinks that “The people who work there [Trader Joe’s] are just wonderful”. Her appraisal was generated when she was looking for a bottle of ibuprofen at one of the stores, the Trader Joe’s clerk who saw her hunting immediately sped away to find her a bottle of the house brand (Trader Zen) ibuprofen and brought it to her in no time.
2. It ensures that its employess are content and motivated
A very idiosyncratic feature of Trader Joe’s is their jovial employees. Founder of Trader Joe’s, Joe Coulombe said that from the beginning he has always wanted to make Trader Joe’s a fun place to shop, and the first step towards this goal was to hire and maintain cheerful employees. To make customers’ shopping experience resemble a vacation, employees at Trader Joe’s wear Hawaiian shirts. They hand out food and drink samples from small huts and call themselves “traders on the culinary seas”
In 1960 the founder established a policy to pay his full-employees the median household income – which is about $50,000 today. Furthermore, Captains, can make six figures annually. In a very beneficial company policy Trader Joe’s also allows part-timers to earn health-care benefits.
3. It has paid a lot of attention on store accessibility
Trader Joe’s wants to span its amazing shopping atmosphere and customer experience as far as possible and that’s why Trader Joe’s is willing to come out with as many new branches as possible. Trader Joe’s wants customers to go through the least travel to get to their favourite grocery store. On their FAQ page, they have stated that “if you have a recommendation for an area that you think would be a good fit, please send us an email. There are no guarantees, but being wanted matters to us.”
Some customers have also thought that an online shopping portal for Trader Joe’s would be very beneficial but the grocery chain claims that “We set up our stores with care, finding just the right crew and adding a flavour of paradise. After considering the options, we’re still just big ‘ole fans of the neighbourhood grocery store where we can say hello when you’re looking around wondering – “what’s for dinner?””
4. Its employees are never shy of going the extra mile
Trader Joe’s employees steps in to help wherever they can. This following story was revealed on an extremely popular Reddit thread and featured on multiple online and physical news publications.
Now isn’t that going the extra mile?
In the end, Trader Joe’s business model allows it to respond to customer feedback in such a way that other supermarkets cannot match. Suppliers to Trader Joe’s do not pay any stocking fees, which is otherwise something that other supermarkets practice for a profit. With a much smaller retail space than other grocery stores and supermarkets, Trader Joe’s removes products that don’t sell as well and restock with new and in demand ones. This restocking process is purely based on customer needs and feedback and this is one way that Trader Joe’s works on their retail customer experience. “We like to think of Trader Joe’s as an economic food democracy,” says Audrey Dumper, vice president of marketing for Trader Joe’s East.
Tell us about another company that provides such an amazing customer experience. We would love to write about them and share it with the world.