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Trader Joe's Gained A Cult-Like Following: Here's Why

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Brooke Lynch

Trader Joe's

When scrolling social media, some might be surprised to find a fan page for a grocery store. The typical Instagram influencers share beautiful vacation photos and endless selfies, not pasta sauce, and frozen food. But apparently, there is a market for it; customers and creators alike are flocking to social media to share their unique Trader Joe’s grocery finds. With accounts like Trader Joe’s List topping 1.5 million followers, this trend is making grocery shopping cool.

Trader Joe’s seems to be everywhere online. With ‘Everything New at Trader Joe’s’ lists appearing monthly, and new favorites lists being published on national news sources, the brand has seemingly attracted a cult following. In a sense, the chain has become more than a grocery store; it offers shoppers unique products that become part of customers’ lifestyles. When coming into contact with a Trader Joe’s shopper, they consistently rave about their cauliflower rice or their frozen chicken, giving you product recommendations and always ending with “you must go.”  With all of its praise, Trader Joe’s is clearly doing something right.

As a whole, the company truly works to make the customer experience special. The staff members at each location emphasize friendliness and regularly converse with customers, sharing their favorite products, asking about your day, and discussing weekend plans. Customers are pretty much guaranteed a discussion with a staff member upon entering the store. The chain works to find every opportunity to engage with customers and even stocks shelves during store hours to promote more frequent interactions. And it’s genuinely not an act; Trader Joe’s president Bryan Palbaum stated that finding employees with outwardly nice personalities is actually part of the hiring process. He noted that it’s difficult to “train someone to be nice.” Additionally, employees seem to actually enjoy the role, 20% of their 46,000 employees have worked at the chain for 10 years or more. 

From a customer service perspective, there’s a lot to learn from Trader Joe’s. The brand is not just promoting a customer-centric ideal but succeeding at it by fostering exceptional employee relationships. This dual-centric mindset has allowed major success; because employees are so happy, they genuinely want to create a positive and notable experience for customers. This could be both a product of recruitment strategy, in finding the happiest most outwardly nice people from the start, or through training procedures, the company requires employees to test all products and they end up becoming fans themselves. 

The chain even hosts its own Trader Joe’s University to develop leadership skills within its teams. The brand encourages a hire within policy that focuses on building relationships with the current staff to maintain top talent. In its own podcast Inside Trader Joe’s, employees praise the leadership courses so much, one individual even attributed it to saving their marriage. It highlights leadership and communication skills that are not just effective in the job, it improves employees’ ability to listen, act respectfully and praise others in a way that better prepares them for all aspects of life. 

This kind of training is admirable and should be used as an example for other businesses. Although it is important to continually focus on your customer’s needs, allocating the resources to truly build out your talent will have a considerable impact on the customer experience. When looking at workshops like Trader Joe’s University, it’s easy to see why employees are continuing with the company for 10 plus years. These benefits and support systems work to build a greater sense of trust and community in the workplace, and they show employees that the company actually cares about their needs and wants to promote their successes. 

While unique products and fun advertising may bring people through the door, the customer service differentiator really lies in the engaging and intimate in-store experience. Trader Joe’s employees are real advocates of the brand and their ability to connect with customers is a distinct asset, especially during these isolating times. In building a united front, where every employee works to establish a welcoming and friendly tone, employees are providing customers with a consistently positive experience. And these elevated experiences, in turn, will generate loyalty; a theme that is reflected in the avid fanbase and the organic reach the brand boasts.