4 ways to support supermarket supervisors to excel at problem solving

October 10, 2017 - 2 minute read

In the age of the customer experience, it is shocking to realize that US supermarket supervisors are unable to resolve nearly 34% of typical daily customer problems effectively. How could a supermarket chain lower this percentage? In-depth interviews with four store managers from a southeast US supermarket chain, who are experienced in implementing strategies to improve first-line problem-solving skills, reveal the four must-do’s that make the difference.

Retailers need to resolve daily customer problems to stay competitive. But they struggle to serve the consumers. US Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that American companies dealt with more than 1.1 million front-line supervisors in 2014, whose ineffectiveness negatively influenced customer complaint recovery and also directly affected customer satisfaction and the organizational performance.

Why are first-line supermarket supervisors struggling to help visitors? Why do they lack the ability to efficiently reduce daily customer problems? Walden University researchers decided to interview their managers, known as retail store managers. It’s obviously in their interest to create teams of first-line supervisors and employees that deliver quality service and satisfy the customer. The researchers interviewed four managers who did so successfully.

Four must-do’s emerged: 

1. Communicate expectations to supermarket supervisors

This also includes ensuring that these expectations are cascaded to the first-line supervisor’s subordinates. The involved southeast US supermarket chain for example provides training guides to supervisors to communicate expectations.

2. Coach first-line supervisors on performance

Coaching reduces supermarket supervisors role conflicts and keeps supervisors focussed on their KPI’s. Coaching involves personal reflection by the store manager and company documentation such as store manager job descriptions.

3. Provide learning and development to supervisors

Learning and development involves completing mandated company training programs, as well as action planning. Company documentation such as first-line supervisor training checklists also contribute to learning and development.

4. Measure the performance of first-line supervisors

The supermarket of the four participating store managers for example applies annual goal setting templates. By using these templates, it identifies and establishes diverse performance goals and measurements for first-line supervisors.

Bas van Essen

Written by Bas van Essen

Bas was Speakap's first marketing manager. He enjoyed gaining a lot of scientific insights about the value and impact of internal communications.