Like millions of other households, the start of September brings the groans from my kids who have to start waking up early again to go to school which is coupled with the promise of homework, tests, and a teacher grading their efforts. As an adult, I find myself in the odd position of envy that they get the opportunity to dedicate time to learning new things. Call me crazy, but I have an ever growing list of cool things I wish I could learn more about which all too often sit on the back burner, while I tend to the immediate needs of home, family, friends, health, and of course work. This doesn’t mean I don’t spend my fair share of time grading experiences and efforts though.

I have been working in the customer experience space for over 20 years now and I cannot help but grade the experience and the efforts, or lack of efforts, in every place I go and every interaction I have with organizations. I know I am not alone.

Every consumer is constantly evaluating, grading and telling others about their experiences. Go online and conduct a search for any organization using positive or negative key words and you could spend a day reading or watching testimonials about recent experiences. However, since the focus of my career is not on just measuring the outcome of customer interactions but also how to deliberately build the strategy and design of the programs which create those experiences, I am left systematically trying to evaluate what building blocks of the organizations CX program are in place and working, and which ones are absent or not functioning as planned.

CX Grades: Part One

Grocery Store Grouches

Take an example from the last time I went to the grocery store. The store is bright, attractive, laid out in a fashion which makes the shopping experience engaging for the senses and is stocked with all of the products I need and don’t need. I have grown accustomed to this store which is not far from my home. What is also customary is the bi-polar service experience I get between the pharmacy and check-out. In the pharmacy they know me by name, quickly pull up my records and notify me about changes to prescriptions or needing to call my physician for extending authorizations on my prescriptions. The checkout process, while not a bad experience, is on the other end of the continuum of personal. As my turn arrives to check out I am “sort of” greeted by a young, high-school-aged cashier dressed with a partially untucked, wrinkled white shirt and loosely tied black tie. This person may make eye contact, but probably not, ask me in a monotone voice if I found everything I need and if I want paper or plastic. As they are checking me out they frequently have a conversation with the bagger about something unrelated to anything going on in the store.


Hiring: A (Pharmacist) & C (Cashier/Bagger)

Pharmacist: I have only seen our pharmacist in the pharmacy, but Kim knows me and my family like we were neighbors. She expresses genuine concern for our health and knows us by name.

Cashiers/Baggers: While it may not be high-paying job, most cashiers don’t appear to be happy about being there, let alone genuinely care about their customers, certainly not enough to go beyond a required verbal script and attire guidelines to the point of personalizing their greeting or simply ironing their shirt as if they were attending something important. While it is easy to use the “it is a low paying entry level position” as an excuse for low performance I would recommend you watch the inspirational story of a bagger name Johnny.

Training: C

Regardless of the genuine care, they are obviously all trained on what they should do and say, and what they are supposed to wear, to the point it becomes predictable. The training is pretty simple and it would appear the employees are not encouraged to stray much from their training.

Processes: A (pharmacy) & C (check-out)

They both clearly have processes in place and both areas apply them. It would appear there is a greater use of empowerment in the pharmacy than in the check-out area as the cashier is not even allowed to sell me (decades beyond 21) a bottle of wine without asking for an ID and keying in the date of birth. My father used to get annoyed that the check-out personnel would automatically apply the senior citizen discount but needed to ask him for ID to purchase alcohol.

Rewards & Recognition: D

There is little evidence that employees are encouraged to strive to create a good customer experience.

VOC Program: C

While they have a VOC program in place the process is cumbersome and as noted online, frequently not functioning. The questions are fairly general and unlikely to pinpoint improvement needs though there is an open ended section.

What grades do you give your local grocery stores when it comes to CX? Comment below with your worst and best experiences.