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Kroger Solves Top Customer Issue: Long Lines

The supermarket chain, No. 3 in the InformationWeek Elite 100 ranking, uses QueVision system to ensure customers never have more than one person ahead of them.

put the data up on a screen -- where everyone, including customers, could see wait times -- turned out to be key to the project's success.

The next act.
One unexpected bonus was that the shorter lines also improved another customer-oriented metric: the friendliness of associates.

Shoppers are happier when they have shorter lines, Bonner notes. "When the associates have happy shoppers, they are happier, too," he says. "The math did not predict happier associates." That cashier-friendliness metric, measured in customer surveys, has improved company-wide, rising 24% since 2011, Kroger says.

The reporting software has become key to continuing improvement, Meiser says. Everyone from store employees to executives can see daily metrics on how stores are doing on customer satisfaction. "That is the performance scorecard that everyone agrees is the absolute mission of the company," he says. "Everybody knows we will have a daily conversation to make it better."

Did the project change the way Kroger staffs its stores? While some retailers have used the Irisys appliances to cut labor hours, that wasn't part of Kroger's plan, Bonner says, so the company kept labor hours about the same. Store managers did gain more flexibility to schedule employee breaks and move employees to the floor to do other tasks, he says.

Kroger uses the QueVision data in more detailed simulations. It has correlated enough data to keep people moving in the front of stores, including checkout lines, even in stores with unusual layouts. The QueVision data also helps Kroger evaluate new shopping systems, such as ones that let customers scan their own products while shopping.

For its next act, the R&D team will roll out a project to improve food safety -- after a significantly shorter six-month development cycle, Bonner says. "We're going to monitor every case, every temperature in the Kroger company, real time," he says. "We believe in the Internet of things. We're not done."

What do Uber, Bank of America, and Walgreens have to do with your mobile app strategy? Find out in the new Maximizing Mobility issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest.

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