Think about the last time you went to the grocery store. Were you shoving your way through the aisles, trying to snag items from the shelves as fast as humanly possible?
Or, were you going for a stroll? Pushing your shopping cart and taking in the surroundings.
On a typical trip to the grocery store, my expectations match up with option one. When I go to Trader Joe’s, though, I stroll.
In this month’s brand crush post, we’re talking through how Trader Joe’s managed to remove the mundane from grocery shopping.
For decades, researchers and companies have tried to decode the successful customer service strategies of Trader Joe’s and their insanely loyal following.
And to this day, the company tops the ACSI Index for Supermarkets in the U.S., coming in at the number one spot.
(Sidebar: Trader Joe’s shares the top spot with Wegmans and H-E-B, two other companies sporting great values and standout service).
Let’s dig into the successful customer service strategies Trader Joe’s uses to build a band of customer advocates and stand out from the pack.
1. Employees are readily available (and excited) to help customers.
Trader Joe’s employees are bubbling with personality. They’re encouraged to have fun at work and build connections with customers, even if it takes a few extra minutes to complete a task.
From sporting Hawaiian shirts to sharing their favorite frozen meals and TJ’s recommendations for your next shopping trip, employees exude positivity. And, they’re incredibly helpful.
In fact, in all the chronicles of what makes Trader Joe’s so great, the employees are the shining stars. The groceries are… groceries. It’s the experience, service, and vibe the Trader Joe’s’ team members create that’s so memorable.
“The profound experience that people have shopping at Trader Joe’s, almost everyone talks about the staff. It’s the defining difference between Trader Joe’s and so many other stores.”– Zendesk
As you peruse each aisle, you’ll find at least one Trader Joe’s employee restocking items and checking in with customers to make sure they’re finding what they need.
Employees hand out samples and make themselves available (and visible) to customers who might have questions. They’re always equipped with suggestions and product pairings. And they do it all with a pep in their step.
2. Investing in employees is vital to their success.
Trader Joe’s invests heavily in training and benefits for employees, so they can keep positive attitudes high and retain enthusiasm on the grocery store floor.
One fickle, bitter employee floating around the aisles at would really spoil the bunch, throwing off the aura they’ve worked so hard to create.
That’s why leaders of the beloved brand hire for attitude and empathy, then invest in training to boost skill sets.
Each new employee gets 10 days of initial training and seasoned employees are pulled into regular taste-tests to get familiar with new products.
This keen attention to employees, their needs and growth lead to booming business, memorable experiences, and crazy low turnover. At one point, the grocery chain boasted voluntary turnover rates as low as 4%.
Zeynep Ton, Co-Founder & President of the Good Jobs Institute said in the Harvard Business Review that companies who foot the bill to invest in employees upfront see lasting impacts because of it.
“Highly successful retail chains—such as QuikTrip convenience stores, Mercadona and Trader Joe’s supermarkets, and Costco wholesale clubs—not only invest heavily in store employees but also have the lowest prices in their industries, solid financial performance, and better customer service than their competitors. They have demonstrated that, even in the lowest-price segment of retail, bad jobs are not a cost-driven necessity but a choice.”Zeynep Ton, Professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Co-founder & President of Good Jobs Institute
Put simply, a low budget isn’t an excuse for a bad work environment.
3. They have their own awards program to give customers a voice.
Did you know that some 53% of contact centers now want to bust the myth that companies don’t take customer feedback seriously?
Trader Joe’s is already in the business of busting that myth.
The company has dozens of ways for customers to reach out and provide feedback (locally or to corporate) about their experience. And they’re sure to highlight how much customer feedback means to them.
Want to browse some FAQs, reach out to your local store, or contact corporate? You have all the options, upfront and center when you want to reach out for help. No hiding service lines or trying to avoid customer contact. Thanks for the transparency and opportunity to connect with a live human, Trader Joe’s. We appreciate you.
Plus, for the past decade, they’ve been gathering opinions on the products that fill their shelves, too.
Each year TJ’s releases their Customer Choice Awards. The awards feature a collection of products that customers picked as their top purchases for the year. They share fan-loved favorites and give customers a voice in sharing what’s topped their grocery lists.
And, they use the feedback and customer recs to deliver even more convenience to customers, too. In their awards catalog, Trader Joe’s offers useful info on how to use each product, sharing unique recipes and creations to make cooking (and shopping) even easier.
The company leans on customers for valuable info, then eliminates effort by consolidating and disseminating all the helpful goods to customers.
4. The little things come together for standout experiences.
Cheerful music playing, rows of fresh flowers greeting you as you walk in the door, bustling shoppers, and maritime décor make Trader Joe’s a grocery store turned tiki beach party.
The company introduces so many unexpected, little moments of joy into each shopping experience – it all adds up.
A few of the little things I’ve noticed while shopping or visiting the TJ’s website:
- The credit card reader sings.
When I’m in the checkout line paying for my groceries, I hear a delightful jingle when it’s time to remove my card from the chip reader – not that terrible, beeping sound. You know the one. The one that makes me feel as if I’ve done something wrong by paying for my groceries. (If buying cookie butter is wrong, I don’t want to be right).
- They appeal to younger audiences: your kids.
Keeping (hungry) kids entertained while parents chug through their to-do list is no easy feat. Trader Joe’s relates. And they did something about it. Kids have to seek out a little stuffed monkey hidden somewhere in the store. And when they find it, they get a sucker. It keeps them entertained and focused while parents shop – making the shopping experience all the more convenient and reducing effort for parents.
- They’re relatable.
From the floor displays, to the staff attitudes, to the words they choose, Trader Joe’s connects on a human level. Take this disclaimer on their site, for example.
If you can find a way to reference rush hour traffic, filibusters, and the zombie apocalypse in a single disclaimer that would typically feature legal jargon, you’re in the business of connecting to people.
5. They don’t skimp on customer communication.
As a store with tons of seasonal items (and limited stock), planning for your purchases can be tough sometimes.
To help, Trader Joe’s created the Fearless Flyer. It’s a monthly flyer released to show customers what’s new in-store and give them ideas for meals. You can subscribe to get the flyer straight to your inbox. Or, if you want to keep your inbox tidy you can check it out on the home page of the TJ’s website for quick intel before a trip to your local store.
For Trader Joe’s the concept is simple: create an environment and experience that customers want to frequent.
And, they’ve done just that. The company has some of the most loyal customers of any brand in existence. Not only that, but their customers rave about them and encourage others to shop there, too.
I know tons of sites that dedicate articles, and even entire categories, to promoting Trader Joe’s. Customers rave about their experiences. And they go to great lengths to share it with friends, family, and their networks.
We’d all benefit from taking a few pages out of their playbook.