The last year and a half has been a whirlwind for everyone, and especially independent grocery retailers. From the panic buying in March 2020 to recent state and county re-openings, retailers and associates are looking forward to the return to more normal operations, which include the IGA Five Star Assessment Program. Back to its regular schedule with two annual visits, the Assessment provides retailers with the feedback they need to ensure their stores are operating at optimal levels.
"The great thing about the Assessment Program is that it helps our retailers keep track of the fundamentals—everyday basics that matter to shoppers but are easy for us to become blind to—so they can focus on the differentiators that set our IGA stores apart from competitors and keep sales high," says IGA CEO John Ross.
To avoid getting store blind, retailers can check in on their Assessment results from the first round of visits and use that feedback to fuel training and improvements for the next round, which will begin Monday, August 9.
Keep reading to find out what's new for the 2021 Assessment, how to access spring/summer survey results, and which recommended trainings are available to ensure employees are ready for the fall visits.
New in 2021
What can retailers expect to find in the 2021 results? New measurement goals and a more modern and advanced process for providing purposeful feedback so retailers and their teams can improve the shopper's experience.
"Not only are we continuing to address what's really been important during COVID-19," but we're looking at what will be relevant post-COVID as well," says Jason King, training and development manager for the IGA Coca-Cola Institute. King and his team developed the 2021 criteria with feedback from the National Retailer Advisory Board (NRAB) to ensure it is current and valuable to IGA retailers and reflects the shopper experience, including:
- Is each department well organized, with prices easy to locate and fresh products?
- Are the aisles clean and well lit?
- Did the staff greet you and offer help?
- Were shopping carts corralled in the appropriate places?
See the full list of 2021 Assessment questions here.
During the spring/summer surveys, which began in April and will be wrapping up next week, a trained local shopper visited each IGA store for an assessment. "Local is the keyword. Because the assessor is a shopper of the area, the feedback you get is more targeted to your shoppers—and ultimately more useful in gauging how well you are meeting your shoppers’ needs," King says.
The assessor walked the store to document the strengths and opportunities for improvement. Once finished with this unrevealed portion of the visit, the assessor presented management or the service desk with a letter informing management that they would complete the remaining assessment with photos.
Survey.com then analyzed the photos along with the assessor's notes to ensure the data is objective and accurate, and created reports for the store, complete with the photos and other data and information collected during the assessment. Retailers can view these scores on their Survey.com dashboards now, King says, and can sort their results by different criteria (e.g. departments) to easily interpret their results. If a retailer is unable to access their dashboard, they can contact King directly for assistance.
Learn how to use your Survey.com dashboard in this video.
Prepare for Fall Visits
After reviewing the spring/summer Assessment visit results, retailers can prepare for fall visits—which begin August 9 and will be completed before the holidays—by addressing the opportunities for improvements and ensuring new and veteran employees are up to date on their trainings. The IGA Coca-Cola Institute offers training and resources for all employees, from classes on conflict resolution and managing stress at work to new cashier classes on processing WIC payments, and even new classes for specifically for meat department employees.
IGA CEO John Ross encourages retailers and store management to use the Institute's training classes, especially during the labor shortage. "Retailers across the country are struggling to find employees at all, let alone well-qualified ones," he says. "I know it may be hard to take time for training, but it's critically important to spend a little extra time on proper training, especially for those new hires who don't have any industry experience."
King says those new to the industry would benefit from the Introduction to Food Retail class, which explains the role retailers play in the supermarket business, as well as the Food Safety and Sanitation Basics class.
He also recommends one specific course to get new employees up to speed on the IGA culture, which can also put your store in a good position for the fall Assessment visits. "The IGA Way to Care Essentials class covers the customer service that the assessor is looking at," King says. "It's a key course that employees can take to help their stores improve Assessment scores, covering customer service basics, like how to greet the customer, smile, etc. Everyone should take it."
The classes and resources available from the IGA Coca-Cola Institute, coupled with the feedback from the first round of 2021 Assessment visits, should put retailers and their store teams in a good position to make necessary improvements before the fall Assessment visits start on August 9. For more information on the Assessment program, click here.
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