I am a big fan of going to the grocery store. To me, it’s a playground of limitless creative options — a place where each and every well-lit aisle is chock full of ingredients from all over the world that are waiting to be included in my next foodie “masterpiece” (it’s also a source of amusement when the produce aisle has a “thunderstorm” to announce the next misting). 

Having the aisles memorized, I go down the ones I need to browse, briefly looking at new products, but oftentimes reaching for the tried and true. And when it’s time to check out, and the cashier asks me if I have found everything I need, I make the same cheeky joke every time, “More than I was supposed to come in here for.”

To me, the grocery shopping experience is everything I expect it to be, and it’s because their customer experience teams have it down to a science from the moment you walk into the store, to the moment you’re savoring a meal with their goods.

Related Article: The Most Important Components of the Customer Experience

Loyalty Questioned By Surprise Customer Experience

I have been loyal to the couple of grocery stores that I’ve come to rely on across the country as they are consistent in layout, product offerings, the quality of my purchases… and pricing. Aside from any sales tax a state imposes, most grocery chains remain consistent on the retail price of the same item you purchase almost anywhere, checking one more box on what you come to expect as a customer.

Yes, pricing is also part of the customer experience.

About a week ago, I went back to the store to get my semi-weekly groceries and decided to “quickly” browse the wine aisle (a guilty pleasure) while mentally telling myself (for the umpteenth time) I don’t need any more wine.

I stopped at one of my favorite all-time brands and stared at the price tag. Cue record scratch here. It was 78% higher than anywhere else I’ve purchased it, and it was on sale at that price.

I whipped out my phone and did a quick search. This grocery chain was the only one to mark it up that much. I looked down at my cart in slight shock, reviewing the same brands I’ve always purchased. Have I been mindlessly spending more on items than I should at this chain?

I went back through a few aisles to check their prices again — 60% to 72% higher. When did this happen? I shook my head and slowly went to the checkout line feeling tricked, vowing to only go to my other go-to store in the future as I was no longer loyal to this brand. Watching the total cost of my purchases increase at a fast clip, I took pause to reflect on how price now plays a significant role in brand loyalty and customer experience.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: The Key to CX Success? Planning the Entire Customer Journey

CX Success Formula: Loyalty, Communication

Irrespective of industry, as purchasers, we’ve become bigger deal hunters that are willing to abandon brands for the sake of saving money. As vendors, we toil endlessly to find the right balance between keeping customers happy and generating profit, while competing against similar brands that may be newer, sleeker and more cost-effective.

So, how do we combat this? Two ways: Loyalty to the customer and communication.

Yes, price increases are inevitable for virtually every organization — it’s the nature of the economy. But the percent of increase + what the customer gets for the increase + little-to-no communication about the increase + a poor discount strategy = The customer feeling as though you aren’t loyal to them, which means they won’t be loyal to you. 

Keeping Customers Loyal As Prices Go Up

We can do better, though. Here are the top five ways to increase price while keeping customers loyal and happy with their experience:

  1. Keep it modest. The price increase should be modest unless there’s a significant improvement in the product or service you’re providing that renders it higher.
  2. Communicate early and often about the increase. I see too many companies go “silent” on what are perceived as negative changes for fear they will lose the customer. The more you communicate upfront, the more comfortable they will be about the changes, and, chances are, they will stay.
  3. Leverage voice of the customer. Gather feedback from a group of customers on what they feel is a comfortable price increase but be prepared to discuss what they get in return for it (i.e., a better feature set, better product, etc.).
  4. Ensure the customer experience matches the price increase, especially if it’s more significant. While relationships should always be deepened and maintained, it never hurts to develop programs that heighten the customer’s positive experience of your organization, such as an Executive Sponsor Program, a renewal program, a customer loyalty program, etc.
  5. Be loyal to the customer. This means keeping in mind customer sentiment, how we feel when we are in the purchaser’s seat and what we value from the relationship with them. It means ensuring they know they come first with any changes we must make.

As for my experience, I’ve shifted my loyalty to a grocery chain that puts their customers’ needs first — providing quality food at more reasonable prices because they believe eating healthy should be a right — something they strive to communicate that hits all the right notes with me.

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