Metro’s vice-president of customer experience Éric Côté is on a mission to elevate the in-store experience for customers. Before stepping in the newly created position in September, Côté held several management roles at Metro and its Super C banner, and also owned four franchised Metro stores. (He started with the company as a teen in his father’s Metro, in Quebec.) Canadian Grocer chatted with Côté about his unique role.
What are your responsibilities in your new role?
It’s really simple: Metro wants to become the market leader in customer experience; I have to come up with the strategy to do so. I see myself a bit as a customer advocate in the decisions that involve them.
How can technology help improve a customer’s shopping experience?
The Metro & Moi card, our loyalty pro- gram, has given us a lot of data about our loyal and non-loyal clients. We’re able to analyze what types of promotions respond better with customers, whether or not they’re price-sensitive, and how to do our promotions. It helps us a lot.
We also have online surveys that give us lots of information. We’re researching what technology can help us the most, like technology that can tell us what customer is entering [the store].
Overall, what provides the greatest customer experience is our employees at the store level. My focus is really on how our employees can greatly improve the customer experience at Metro.
How do employees make a difference?
I always say a ketchup bottle at Metro and a ketchup bottle at IGA is the same thing; [but] the person who sells it will deliver a totally different experience. Raising the customer experience is about our employees [ensuring customers are] well received and that we’re offering them new products and assuring them everything on their shopping list is avail- able in-store.
What’s one part of the store Metro wants to modify to make shopping easier?
The cash. Not everybody goes to the meat counter or the bakery, but everybody ends up at the cash register. We want to improve the speed at the cash during busy periods, such as 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. People want to get something to eat and leave quickly. We’re going to make changes in a practical way.
How do ideas expand from one of your stores to others?
The 5 Saisons store that opened a few years ago, in Westmount [in Montreal], was a big challenge [in terms of defining] what a fine grocery store should be. We did a lot of research on customer experience. It’s been like our laboratory. There are many things that started at the 5 Saisons that all Metro clients benefit from. I’m talking about products such as mushrooms in bulk and fresh salads.
Where else do you find inspiration for store ideas?
Some of our stores have excellent results in customer experience in our surveys, so we’re looking at what customers like in these stores. I’m doing lots of store- employee interviews with cashiers and clerks. They’re the ones who meet customers every day, and hear about their frustrations. I’m also doing focus groups with employees and customers. And I’ve been looking at our competitors in Quebec and at what’s going on in other countries and at other chains in Europe.
Which grocer do you like to visit outside of Canada?
Eataly in New York. You can find every Italian product, from pasta to pizza, meat, pastries and gelato. I like the customer experience; watching employees make fresh pasta by hand. You can taste it and then buy it. You can do that also with bread, prosciutto–you can try everything. For me, it’s one of the great stores in its niche and it provides a good experience.