Raley's Customer serviceTom Hutchison, Director Marketing, CRM & Analytics at Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, knows that to compete in the fierce world of grocery retail, differentiation is the only path to customer engagement and customer loyalty.

How does Raley’s deliver this time after time?

“A world-class experience,” Hutchison told Loyalty360. “If we’re going to combat the big players in ecommerce, that has to be our differentiator.”

Hutchison notes that Raley’s prides itself on historically landing among the Top 10 supermarkets in the country, according to a leading national consumer magazine, with readers often citing incredible customer service, quality of products, speed at checkout, and prices. service.

“We want to set the bar as high as it can go,” he said.

Raley’s earned a Bronze award on Monday at the inaugural Loyalty360 CX Awards during the 4th annual Engagement & Experience Expo in Dallas.

Raley’s is a privately held, family-owned supermarket chain that operates stores under several brand names in northern California and Nevada. Headquartered in West Sacramento, California, Raley’s is the dominant supermarket operator in the Sacramento metropolitan area, launching its first-ever customer loyalty program in 2012, which continues to drive a customer-centric approach when communicating to its customers.

Hutchison said Raley’s defines customer experience by developing its customers’ loyalty.

“Something Extra earns our customers’ loyalty by engaging our members with relevant, personalized communications that add value to their overall shopping experience,” he explained.

Raley’s is committed to treating customers like family, consistent with the company’s internal culture based on values that each team member is encouraged to exhibit:

Fearless – Forge ahead with thoughtful, bold ideas
Accountable – Take responsibility for doing what’s right
Memorable – Make impressions and connections
Inspiring – Encourage creativity and passion
Learning – Seek and share knowledge
You – Make a difference

“These values keep the culture and team members aligned on how to deliver on the company mission to “make shopping easier, better, and more personal” for customers,” Hutchison explained. “Living our values is expected across all levels and positive behavior is highlighted in internal communications and even through external social media channels.”

Raley’s set of Customer Promises takes living values to a unique level by tying a customer experience framework to the expectations for each team member.

“Our five Customer Promises are based on customer research and serve as the foundational pillars for delivering a world-class customer experience,” Hutchison said. “These promises are based on a deep understanding of customer wants and needs, forming the cornerstone for how decisions are made and how we strategically plan. The world-class service principles are clearly communicated to team members as the way to deliver on our promises to customers.”

Focusing on high-level customer-centric adoption is paramount for Raley’s and a key to its success.

“We’ve looked across the market at the trends,” Hutchison explained. “Brick-and-mortar, ecommerce and our level of service. We looked at how things have been changing. If we’re going to survive and thrive in that environment, we have to focus on the customer exclusively. We need to understand their needs, their desires and the importance of all of those factors. We have to deliver a world-class experience and world-class level of service. To understand this, we have to get to know our customers better.”

To differentiate, Raley’s has to deliver on the company’s five promises and “reach perfection” in all of them, Hutchison said.

“A lot of companies can say that, but don’t build a promise to go behind that,” he said. “Every strategic initiative we have must deliver on one of those five promises. If it’s not delivering on one of those five promises, we ask ourselves, ‘Why are we doing that?’”

The Customer Promises are the framework for ensuring that the customer always has a place at the table in all decisions made within the organization, Hutchison explained.

“The five promises provide team members with a framework for delivering excellent customer service, without the prescriptive nature of an operating checklist,” he said. “This has been extremely intentional from Day 1 to facilitate a culture where our teams feel empowered and supported to do the right thing for each unique customer. Additionally, the business tracks the customer experience through a defined set of customer focused metrics, a Customer Promise tracker, which is used as a barometer to create accountability at the business unit and store level. The focus is on emotional intelligence, in addition to delivering upon the functional attributes of the customer experience that are important to customers. To make team members feel empowered to deliver unique experiences to each customer, training focuses on building emotional intelligence, and hiring practices look for it.”

The Customer Promises, Hutchison added, together with the company mission statement, “are keystone to a culture that is always connected to the customer – keeping a finger on the pulse of what customers want and need, creating strategies to deliver against these needs, monitoring through constant tracking, and supporting a strategic planning process that ensures that the right decisions are made to support customer-first thinking.”

It’s simple for Raley’s: It wants to make the shopping experience easier, better and more personal with the customer at the center.

“Our foundational research looks at tactics and strategies,” Hutchison explained. “It’s not about gleaning insights that will change our strategic direction, but it’s about building a better, more personalized journey for the customer.”

What’s more, the company learned an interesting piece of insight from its digital program.

“The stats show that people in northern California and Nevada are incredibly immersed in digital technology and communication,” he explained. “But we’ve found that we get a very high ROI from our personalized direct mail efforts that also have a much higher cost. People still want something in their mailboxes. One of the direct mail pieces we do each quarter is when we send our loyalty program members a check and all of a sudden in a world of negative mail and bills, they get something positive and that resonates incredibly well.”

Given a plethora of competition, ecommerce and more choices in general for customers, Hutchison said Raley’s doesn't take anything for granted.

“Our customers’ business and share of wallet is a privilege, not a right,” he said. “We feel privileged to get customers’ business and we have to show them value along with solutions to make their shopping experiences easier and better.”

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