Retailers

What’s the Future of Customer Service at Whole Foods?

Unexpected items in bagging area for one thing
Photograph by WGB Staff

Since Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods Market in 2017,  the industry—and perhaps the world—has been watching to see what changes the acquisition will bring to the Austin, Texas-based grocer whose motto is “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet.”

Given Amazon’s tech-giant reputation, certain upgrades to Whole Foods’ operating systems, online ordering and delivery were to be expected. Amazon also has boots on the ground in every Whole Foods Market, able to recommend Amazon Prime membership to shoppers at checkout. But as time marches on, it’s unclear how the marriage of the big-time technology company and neighborhood natural grocer will evolve.

Whole Foods is currently rolling out and/or testing a number of tech-based initiatives that speak to parent-company Amazon protocol.

Self-Checkout

This summer, Whole Foods Market started implementing self-checkout stands in some of its stores. Most recently, WGB spotted a self-checkout at a Whole Foods in Brooklyn, N.Y. The four self-checkout lanes were part of a reconfiguration of the checkout area at the store, which concurrently added a bank of 10-items-or-less express manned lanes, while appearing to borrow a bit of space from an in-store dining area to make room. In all, the busy store now has 39 check stands.

Retail tech analyst Paula Rosenblum recently queried the grocer about a self-checkout in her North Miami neighborhood. “Whole Foods Market has installed self-checkout in a small number of our stores at the request of our customers. Team members continue to provide a personalized customer experience with full-service checkout alongside the self-checkout lanes, which provide a faster option for customers on the go. No team member positions have been eliminated due to the addition of self-checkout,” said a Whole Foods spokesperson.

Rate Your Experience

Interactive touchscreens are being added to Whole Foods Markets at checkout that prompt shoppers—a la Amazon—to rate their experience on a scale of one to five stars.

According to a company representative, “The star ratings, solicited through touchscreens that began appearing in stores this summer, are an extension of the company’s means for soliciting feedback from customers on their experience shopping at Whole Foods broadly, and won’t be ascribed to individual employees,” reports The Seattle Times.

Hands-On Shopping

Self-checkout with an old-school credit card or even a phone won’t be the only payment option for shoppers at Whole Foods in the very near future. Reports indicate that Amazon is testing scanners that can identify an individual human hand as a method of payment. It is reportedly testing the technology with the aim of implementing the service in Whole Foods Markets across the country.

Amazon Go convenience stores already allow customers to use a phone app to check in and out at a turnstile. The register-less experience allows shoppers to stock up on staples and more without having to wait in a checkout lane.

Two-Hour Delivery

In an effort to better meet the needs of consumers who want what they want now, Amazon has also expanded its two-hour delivery service for Whole Foods customers to some 30 cities, including Los Angeles, Houston and Detroit.

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