SMG's exclusive Interactive Grocery Playbook provides actionable steps along a 3-phased journey to evolve your XM program

Zach Brown | Jul 15, 2020 Zach Brown 07/15/20

Businesses across the globe face a once-in-a-generation challenge that’s fundamentally reshaping consumer behaviors and business operations in a way few thought possible. With 85% of consumers reporting they’ve visited a grocery store within the last 90 days and 60% concerned about catching COVID-19, delivering a clean and safe experience is paramount for grocers.

While a unified effort is required to meet this challenge, the most effective way to be “all in this together” is to leverage the direct feedback employees + customers are providing in order to adapt your strategies to meet their changing needs and expectations.

To help you implement that future-focused approach, SMG has published an interactive XM playbook—broken into a 3-phased journey with fundamental steps for both customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) management programs:

  1. Phase 1: Mitigate the damage
  2. Phase 2: Manage the crisis
  3. Phase 3: Maximize your XM strategy

As an essential industry that’s been allowed to maintain retail operations throughout, grocery brands are well into Phase II—but it’s important to note they may again find themselves in Phase 1 (i.e., “the panic-shopping phase”) should states put policies back into place to combat a resurgence in new reported cases. This is why the playbook was designed to be a centralized hub for tracking your brand’s status of each recommended step—ultimately meeting you where you are and helping you position your XM program to be a valuable resource for navigating the uncertainty created by the pandemic.

By using the interactive status tracker, you can follow specific and tactical recommendations—saving iterations over the coming months as you make strides to evolve your XM strategy for the long haul.

To give you an idea of how the playbook works, let’s take a look at what’s happening in Phase II for the grocery industry specifically.

While SMG research shows a slight increase in grocery store traffic over the last 60 days—though still hitting below pre-COVID levels—we also see consumer expectations have again changed, placing more importance on friendliness and availability of staff. This differs from Phase I, when panic shopping and health concerns caused availability of items and health + safety metrics to emerge as key drivers of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

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Following the initial panic-shopping of Phase I, grocers and customers have now settled into a new normal—one in which operations have steadied, while health + safety protocols remain elevated. For example, SMG research revealed nearly 1 in 4 customers are still significantly less likely to visit a store if they feel unsafe. Top factors contributing to safety concerns include other customers not wearing masks, social distancing guidelines being ignored, and the store being too full.

Though it’s unclear how long this new normal will last, circumstances and customer/employee expectations continue to change rapidly. To help brands react accordingly, the playbook clearly defines several key action items in 4 different elements of an XM program. Here are a few examples specific to Phase II:


Customer experience

  1. Feedback collection: Update your survey with psychographic questions to understand varying levels of concern + expectations across customer segments
  2. Program logistics: Review and revise program training materials to continue highlighting the emphasis on brand-specific health + safety guidelines
  3. Technology: Leverage internal benchmarks to set + track location-level performance goals on brand-specific KPIs within the reporting dashboard
  4. Analysis + Insights: Reference branded benchmarks with a focus on competitive visit share + trip motivation to discover opportunities for growth and keep track of competitors gaining ground

Employee experience

  1. Feedback collection: Revise (don’t postpone) annual survey to include ranked-choice question on which potential action(s) would have the biggest impact on retention (PPE, hazard pay, flexible sick time, etc.)
  2. Program logistics: Broadly communicate “celebration” alerts from the CX program to recognize front-line excellence, encourage service-related best practices, + boost morale
  3. Technology: Continue fine-tuning text analytics + alerting strategies based on specific areas of concern
  4. Analysis + Insights: Conduct a key driver gap analysis across CX and EX datasets to identify + address employee-customer disconnects around what matters most to customers

This is not an exhaustive list—nor is it meant to be a prescriptive guide on how to run your business—but while the operational complexities introduced by COVID-19 seem endless, your XM program can be an invaluable tool in managing those complexities with agility, navigating uncertainty with precision, and emerging a stronger brand.


The world changed quickly. Now it’s up to us to change with it.

SMG’s exclusive interactive playbook is designed to serve as a roadmap to help you navigate the unchartered waters of the global pandemic—providing some much-needed clarity and offering an informed answer to that ever-pressing question: What’s next?

To truly change the way you do business, you must listen closely across touchpoints, act quickly on the insights surfaced, and think frequently on how to evolve your XM strategy over time.

To get started, download your copy: Interactive XM Playbook | Grocery: A 3-phased strategy map and personal status tracker for managing CX + EX during COVID-19 + beyond


Zach Brown | VP, Customer Engagement

Customer Experience Update