My team set out to learn more about the client’s Sales Associate & Customer experience. The team’s goal was to paint a more detailed picture of the pain points that currently exist, in order to start a conversation about how these inefficiencies could be solved in the future.

My contribution:

To solicit qualitative data through One-on-One Interviews, Observation, and Persona Creation to provide context to the data points and tell a more conclusive story.


I, alongside my team, visited 9 Supercenter Stores & Neighborhood Markets in Raleigh, Winston-Salem & Charlotte, NC.


The massive all-inclusive store that instinctively comes to mind. (3,400 nationwide)

Average size: 179,000 sq. ft.

Consists of: Grocery Market, Pharmacy, Departments (Electronics, Clothing, Consumer Goods)


The less common grocery-centric stores that are a quarter of the size of the traditional Supercenter. (700 nationwide)

Average size: 42,000 sq. ft.

Consists of: Grocery Market, Essential Consumer Goods, Pharmacy

Hours Collecting Data
One-on-One Interviews
Associate Observations


In order to attain quantitative data, our team utilized a study that relied highly on Store & Associate observations.


How: Activity observations were recorded across different days of the week and times of day. The device depicted below is a sample of a screen used during data collection.

The following Store/Associate information was assessed:

  • Store characteristics (type, number, etc.)

  • Types of activites being preformed in each department

  • Associate skill and effort while performing work activities

  • Effectiveness of work methods and processes



Employee is observed not performing work activities. (talking about non-work activates, watching another associate work, etc.)

Communication with Supervisor/Associate

Employee is observed speaking with another Supervisor or Associate.


Employee observed taking a call from the Store phone. (does not include Cell Phone usage, which would be considered Idle)


Employee observed unloading store merchandise off of trucks in the Backroom, and placing new merchandise in its’ designated storage spot.


Employee observed refilling shelves with merchandise. (minimum inventory to maximum inventory level)

Travel Unload/Loaded

Employee observed walking around the store, either carrying a work tool (price scanner, cart) or emptyhanded.


After analyzing over 13,000 observations captured, I noticed the following trends in the data regarding employee utilization:

A significant portion of associates observed time was classified as idle; time when work activities are not being performed.

Night shift associates had a higher observed utilization level than morning and day shifts.

Utilization was observed to be higher in higher volume departments (Grocery, Produce, etc.)


  • Stocking
  • Customer Checkout
  • Idle
  • Travel Unload
  • Communication w/ Associate
  • Customer Service
  • Travel Loaded
  • Zoning
  • Pricing
  • Other

Pie Graph depicts % of total observations.

Neighborhood Market

  • Stocking
  • Customer Checkout
  • Idle
  • Travel Unload
  • Communication w/ Associate
  • Customer Service
  • Travel Loaded
  • Zoning
  • Pricing
  • Other


Initially our team’s sole objective was to capture quantitative data for Store Associates. However, I discovered that by not speaking with these individuals our research lacked context.

Therefore I owned the responsibility of understanding the Associate Experience from a qualitative perspective.


In order to attain authentic, honest, and non-biased information I carefully crafted a set of questions to conduct Associate interviews. I leaned on my empathetic and down-to-earth qualities to assure associates felt comfortable speaking with me and knew I was working for them, not against them.

For example:

What would make your job easier? (as opposed to ‘What don’t you like about your job’)

In what capacity to you interact with customers? What are some of the common challenges they face? (as opposed to ‘What don’t customers like’)

How do you know you are doing a good job? (as opposed to ‘Do you ever receive recognition for your work’ or ‘What do you think of your supervisors’)

In the end, I conducted 41 interviews and gained great firsthand insight into the Associate Experience/Journey.


“Zoning would be much easier in Frozen Foods if there were dividers in between the doors in the freezer sections. There is no way to keep packages neat if they can slide all over the place. very discouraging that when time is taken to perfect the section, it doesn’t last long.”

“I believe the evaluation process for managers could be improved. Associates are told to evaluate managers overall, as opposed to individually. This inevitably does nothing to penalized bad managers because they are lumped in with everyone else. She thinks some of the managers are actually really great, however some are terrible. So if the evaluation averages out, then all the managers get the same lecture in regards to how they can improve, but this fails to single out the individuals who really need to hear it, so there is no accountability.”

“When checking out customers, sometimes the price change bar code is not fully covered which causes the checkout machine to ring up twice, both the old barcode and new clearance barcode. I as the cashier, then have to manually fix it which takes time. We get paid to go fast, so this slows us down.”


As I walked through the departments and backrooms of each store I paid attention to the merchandising of store inventory, and the process & execution of associates.


Lawn & Garden kiosks are not designed to handle the laundry list of items purchased by shoppers. The lack of table space, conveyor belt, and turn-stalls creates a nightmare for associates, increasing the errors made during transactions and the time it takes to check out each customer.


Produce storage room shortcuts save time but lose money because Stockers throw away thousands of pounds of expired merchandise each day. Simple strategies like stacking bananas at an angle or stocking new product in the back of old, reduce this risk.


Teams spend so much time doing unplanned zoning  (putting back together packages customers have taken apart), that it takes away time from the other tasks that need to be completed. Also, associates have to reduce the price of non-damaged merchandise because customer perception of quality is low after packaging has been replaced.



Below are some of the findings that resulted from my interviews & observations grouped by those pertaining to People, Process & Technology.

Associates have an average overall view of working for the client which can be improved by increasing hours allotted and full-time benefits (when working a full-time schedule).

New tools and equipment utilized during stocking have made the process a lot faster and efficient. However, associates in certain departments such as Electronics and Lawn & Garden have a hard time staying busy due to a lack of meaningful tasks.

There aren’t enough tools for each shift to perform their duties at the same time, self-checkout POS systems often give customers trouble with transactions, and associates have a difficult time processing large carts in the Lawn & Garden section.