Thought leadership

Waitrose is the most successful retail customer experience management brand in Nunwood’s UK Customer Experience Excellence rankings. Landing in seventh place with a CEE score of 8.00, the retailer is owned by another customer experience champion – John Lewis – and is therefore in very safe hands.

Moreover, the supermarket stands as a sterling example of the heights that can be reached through effective retail customer experience management, with exceptional scores across the whole Six Pillar SystemTM.   

Waitrose began life in 1904 as a small grocery store in West London, where it went by the name of Waite, Rose & Taylor. In the years that followed, the brand was taken over by the John Lewis Partnership. A purveyor of high-quality and luxurious groceries, Waitrose also has a royal warrant to supply food, wine and spirits to Queen Elizabeth II.

Its true virtues though can be seen in its retail customer experience management success. At a time when supermarket brands are competing to show how fast and efficient they can be (with Lidl commissioning printed advertisements that lambasted its rivals for being too sluggish), Waitrose has continued to go from strength to strength by listening to its customers' comments and using them to highlight its own strengths and weaknesses. Over the last 12 months the supermarket has made significant improvements to its everyday strategies, enabling it to rise from 10th position to number seven in the UK Customer Experience Excellence rankings.

Fittingly, its most successful pillar score is that of Time and Effort, where it achieves an exceptional 8.59. Waitrose recognises that Time is a valuable commodity to its customers, and makes a concerted effort to provide a seamless and efficient retail experience. This is particularly apparent on its website, which features an online 'trolley' containing links to favourite products, tailored shopping suggestions, and an Import tool which allows the transfer of shopping lists from other supermarket websites, or from Waitrose receipts.

However its examples of best practice in Time & Effort are not restricted to just the Internet. One visitor to a Waitrose store explained: "I had very little time to shop and asked an assistant in the store for directions to the juice aisle. Not only did they tell me which aisle the juice was on but also took me directly to the product I wanted to buy." A second customer added: “I was picking up a product from the pick-up desk. They went to get my product whilst I did the shopping. I was able to pick up the product quickly and easily and they offered to carry it to the car for me and load it in."

These time-saving measures are often peppered with personal touches, which shoppers seem to appreciate. The brand has kept track of all visitor feedback, an important element of a winning strategy and has used their comments to further enhance its performance. This is evident in the pillar of Personalisation, which has seen exponential improvement over the last two years. In 2012, Waitrose scored a very respectable 8.07, which rose to 8.11 in 2013. However in 2014 the result is an excellent 8.21, making it the second-highest pillar score for the brand.

Staff go out of their way to tailor the shopping experience to the individual and are adept at making people feel welcome when they enter their outlets. As one customer said: "When you visit our local Waitrose they have a gentleman… who I am sure is not employed as a meeter and greeter but has a word for almost every customer which gives the store that friendly feeling."

In addition, Waitrose employees provide a personal experience when delivering goods to customers' homes, too. "The delivery service is particularly good," one customer noted. "If there is any delay they telephone… and give another ETA. On arrival the driver is willing to carry the goods into the kitchen. Most helpful." 

Such focus on the customer experience can be attributed to Waitrose’s employee-owned partnership model.  Waitrose employees, known as partners, have a say in company decisions and are entitled to bonuses based on the company’s financial performance. With this in mind they have a vested interest in delivering an outstanding customer experience and will happily go the extra mile for their customers.

Despite these stories of success and motivation, Waitrose is not a brand to rest on its laurels. The battle of the grocery retail customer experience management brands is an intense and relentless one and time again the retailer has shown its prowess in the UK rankings. Provided it continues to demonstrate customer experience best practice methods to drive continual improvement, Waitrose will have the edge on its supermarket rivals for many years to come.    

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