Meeting Shopper Standards

May 16, 2019

I recently visited the local department of motor vehicles office in Kennesaw, Georgia. Just thinking about going to the DMV used to make me quake. It literally was the worst example of customer service I could ever imagine.

The DMV used to be in a ratty strip mall, with broken tile flooring, water-sodden ceiling tiles, broken chairs and surly employees who knew they had a job whether they pleased their customer or not. The sentence is in past tense for a reason. This time it was clean, professional, fast, and efficient. And pleasant!

I asked the supervisor what they did to transform and her answer was simple: the DMV started measuring what drivers thought of the experience and set a goal to improve.

“I am not sure we ever cared to ask the drivers what they thought, but our new commissioner decided we were going to offer great service,” she said. “And cleaning up the office, fixing and painting stuff, it made us feel like he was caring about us which made it easier to care about our clients.”

And it’s working. The Kennesaw, Georgia location gets 4.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp!

Measuring what counts

At IGA in the U.S., we have a new assessment program—created with new partner—designed to show IGA retailers what shoppers see and experience in the store, and provide feedback to continually improve on that experience. 

Beginning tomorrow, results will be available for the first of three independent scoring assessments for 2019. Anytime you switch scoring vendors you need to pay attention to the way the raters score our stores, and that’s why the scoring from this spring’s assessment won’t “count” toward your annual Five Star assessment. Only the summer and fall scoring will determine whether your store is a Five Star IGA.

This is a gift in a way; an opportunity for you to see what the raters say about your store, and to adjust and fix the problems they identify before the next round of scoring happens later this summer. And with actionable feedback—including assessor comments and photos from the store visit—you’ll have the information you need to make changes that move the dial on your score.

So, far the numbers look good. The vast majority of IGA stores hit Four Star or better, and some stores that didn’t earn the top mark before now have a Five Star rating! On top of that, we have a new category, Five Star Platinum, which enables us to recognize the very best scoring retailers in the chain, or those who are in the top three percent of all IGA stores. 

A glimpse into a top IGA Five Star store

I wanted to see firsthand what a top rated IGA store looks like under our new assessment, so just this week I took a trip from my home in Atlanta to Foothills IGA in Marble Hill, Georgia. The store, owned by Jeff and Sandy Downing, sits in a small town with a mix of low income and higher income consumers, bracketed by all the normal competitors IGAs face: Walmart, Kroger, Publix, and dollar stores, all within five to seven miles of their store. They have some of IGA’s highest and most consistent comp sales increases year over year, and our new raters gave them one of the highest marks of any IGA storemeaning they will likely be Five Star Platinum when all our scoring is complete


I asked Jeff what he thought was the secret to his success, and here's a summary of his response: 

  • They take care of their people, and invest in training and development.
  • They pay attention to their competitors, and know they need to have a better or differentiated offering or else even loyal shoppers will drive to another store.
  • They constantly invest in their store, replacing lighting, fixtures, flooring, and displays wherever they see an opportunity to improve.
  • They merchandise to what shoppers want, even if that means adjusting or changing sets, and bringing in more new items.
  • Wherever possible they promote local, and make unique products on site.
  • They use the annual Five Star scoring to make sure they know what shoppers think of their store, and work to address any defect.

And of course, their customer service and community reputation are impeccable. Simply put, Foothills IGA earns its scores by taking care of customers at every turn. Take a look at the pictures below for a glimpse inside the store, and be sure to check out next week's assessment feature story for a video store tour of Foothills that provides a deep dive into what it takes to become a top scoring store. 


Find out where you stand with shoppers

When you get the email tomorrow from giving you access to your full assessment report, please spend some time looking carefully at each survey question, the assessor notes, and the photos. I think you will like the detail and the large number of areas addressed. And I think you will like how we have shifted to scoring metrics to focus on things shoppers care about most.

Use the data to see your store through fresh eyes. Share the results and the photos with your team so you know what to address, and let us know what you think of the new ratings you get.

And most importantly, remember there’s no limit to the number of IGA Five Star retailers we can have. If your score is within the range, you make the cut—so our ultimate goal is to get the entire chain up to Five Star level so each and every store under the IGA brand is delivering a top-level shopping experience.

If a local DMV can do it, so can we!


Have questions about the new assessment program and Five Star scoring? Join us for an assessment webinar on May 29th at 1 p.m. CST. Click here to register.

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