Tag Archives: customers

Angelica Grindle, DEKRA

Four Steps for Utilizing Behavioral Science to Control Exposure to COVID-19

By Angelica Grindle, Ph.D.
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Angelica Grindle, DEKRA

Safety is defined as controlling exposure for self and others. Going into 2020, the food industry battled safety concerns such as slips and falls, knife cuts, soft-tissue injuries, etc. As an “essential industry”, food-related organizations now face a unique challenge in controlling exposure to COVID-19. Not only must they keep their facilities clean and employees safe, they must also ensure they do not create additional exposures for their suppliers or customers.

These challenges increase at a time when employees may be distracted by stress, financial uncertainties, job insecurity, and worry for themselves and their families. Additionally, facilities may be understaffed, employees may be doing tasks they do not normally do, and we have swelling populations working from home.

While there is much we cannot control with COVID-19, there are specific behaviors that will reduce the risk of viral exposure for ourselves, our co-workers, and our communities. Decades of research show the power of behavioral science in increasing the consistency of safe behaviors. The spread of COVID-19 serves as an important reminder of what food-related organizations can gain by incorporating a behavioral component into a comprehensive exposure-reduction process.

Whether you have an existing behavior based safety process or not, follow these four steps.

Step 1: Pinpoint Critical COVID-19 Exposure Reduction Behaviors

It is critical to clearly pinpoint the behaviors you want to see occurring at a high rate. In the food industry, an organization must control exposure both within their facilities as well as during interactions with suppliers and customers. Controlling exposure within facilities will typically include those behaviors recommended by the CDC such as:

  1. Maintain six feet of separation at all times possible.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  3. Minimize personal interactions to reduce exposure to transmit or receive pathogens.
  4. Frequent 20-second hand washing with soap and warm water.
  5. Make hand disinfectant available.
  6. Use alternatives to shaking hands.
  7. Frequently clean and disinfect common areas, such as meeting rooms, bathrooms, doorknobs, countertops, railings, and light switches.
  8. Sneeze and/or cough into elbow or use a tissue and immediately discard.
  9. Conduct meetings via conferencing rather than in person.
  10.  If you are sick, stay home.
  11. If exposed to COVID-19, self-quarantine for precaution and protection of others.

Supplier/Customer exposure-reduction behaviors will vary depending upon your specific industry and may include pinpointing the critical behaviors for food preparation, loading dock delivery, customer home delivery, and customer pick up. When creating checklists to meet your unique exposures, be sure the behaviors you pinpoint are:

  • Measurable: The behavior can be counted or quantified.
  • Observable: The behavior can be seen or heard by an observer.
  • Reliable: Two or more people agree that they observed the same thing.
  • Active: If a dead man can do it, it is not behavior.
  • Influenceable: Under the control of the performer.

Once you have drafted your checklists, ask yourself, “If everyone in my facility did all of these behaviors all the time, would we be certain that we were controlling exposure for each other, our suppliers, and our customers?” If yes, test your checklists for ease of use and clarity.

Step 2: Develop Your Observation Process

To do this, you will want to ask yourself:

  • Who? Who will do observations? Can we leverage observer expertise from an existing process and have them focus on COVID-19 exposure reduction behaviors or should we create a new observer team?
  • Where? Which specific locations, job types, and/or tasks should be monitored?
  • When? When will observers conduct observations?
  • Data: How will you manage the data obtained during the observations so that it can be used to identify obstacles to safe performance? Can the checklist items be entered into an existing database or will we need to create something new?
  • Communication: What information needs to be communicated before we begin our COVID-19 Exposure Reduction process and over time? How will we communicate it?

Step 3: Conduct Your Observations and Provide Feedback

Starting the Observation
Your observers should explain that they are there to help reduce exposure to COVID-19 by providing feedback on performance.

Recording the Observation
Observers should note on the checklist which behaviors are occurring in a safe manner (protected) and which are increasing exposure to COVID-19 (exposed).

Provide Feedback
Feedback is given in the spirit of reducing exposure. It should be given as soon as possible after the observation to reinforce protected behaviors and give the person to opportunity to modify exposed behaviors.

Success Feedback
Success feedback helps reinforce the behaviors you want occurring consistently. Effective success feedback includes:

  • Context: The situation in which the behavior occurred.
  • Action: The specific behaviors observed which reduce exposure to COVID-19.
  • Result: The impact of those behaviors on themselves or others—in this case, reduced COVID-19 exposure for themselves, their families and community.

“I care about your safety and do not want to see you exposed to COVID-19. I saw you use hand sanitizer prior to putting on eye protection. By doing that, you reduced the likelihood of transferring anything that might have been on your hands to your face which keeps you safe from contracting COVID-19.”

Guidance Feedback

Guidance feedback is given for exposed behaviors to transform that behavior into a protected one. Effective guidance feedback includes Context, Action, Result, but also:

  • Alternative Action: The behavior that would have reduced their exposure to COVID-19.
  • Alternative Result: The impact of that alternative behavior, such as reduced COVID-19 exposure for themselves, their families, and community.

“I care about your safety and do not want to see you exposed to COVID-19. I saw that you touched your face while putting on eye protection. By doing that, you increased the likelihood of transferring anything on your hand to your face which increases your risk of exposure to COVID-19. What could you have done to reduce that exposure?”

When giving guidance feedback, it is important to have a meaningful conversation about what prevented them from doing the safe alternative. Note these obstacles on the checklist.

Step 4: Use Your Data to Remove Obstacles to Safe Practices.

Create a COVID-19 exposure reduction team to analyze observation data. This team will identify systemic or organizational obstacles to safe behavior and develop plans to remove those obstacles. This is critical! When an organization knows that many people are doing the same exposed behavior, it is imperative that they not blame the employees but instead analyze what is going on in the organization that may inadvertently be encouraging these at-risk behaviors.

For example, we know handwashing and/or sanitizing is an important COVID-19 exposure reduction behavior. However, if your employees do not have access to sinks or hand sanitizer, it is not possible for them to reduce their exposure.
Similarly, the CDC recommends that people who are sick not come to work. However, if your organization does not have an adequate sick leave policy, people will come to work sick and expose their co-workers, customers and suppliers to their illness.

Your COVID-19 exposure reduction team should develop plans to remove obstacles to safe behavior using the hierarchy of controls.

Conclusion

Consistently executing critical behaviors is key to reducing exposure to COVID-19 as flattening the curve is imperative in the worldwide fight against this pandemic. Regardless of the type of behavior or the outcome that the behavior impacts, Behavior based safety systems work by providing feedback during the observations and then using the information obtained during the feedback conversation to remove obstacles to safe practices.

By using these tips, you can add a proven and powerful tool to your arsenal in the fight against COVID-19 and help keep your employees, their families, and your community safe.

GREG BALESTRIER, Green Rabbit
Retail Food Safety Forum

Solving Food Safety Challenges in Today’s eCommerce Driven World

By Greg Balestrieri
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GREG BALESTRIER, Green Rabbit

Think about this number for a second: Consumers spent more than $19 billion on online grocery in 2019. While this is still a small segment of the overall $800 billion U.S. grocery market, more consumers than ever before are turning to eCommerce for the fulfillment and delivery of perishable goods, positioning the grocery delivery market to grow dramatically, especially as companies like Amazon continue to innovate in this area.

Adding to this, a recent survey found that 68% of consumers feel the freshness of perishable items is the number one quality they look for in online grocery retail. This is where things become complicated, as shipping perishables introduces an entirely new set of quality challenges for eCommerce brands. This is hindering the market from reaching its full potential until the biggest problem is solved: Ensuring food safety and freshness in every order.

This is a double-edged sword for retailers, grocers and CPGs: Interest in their service is taking off, but it takes just one package of spoiled meat or wilted vegetables to potentially lose a customer to a competitor—or even worse, get someone sick.

Today, spoilage and food safety issues are primarily driven by breakdowns in the cold chain, and it only takes one mishap to affect the quality of food throughout the rest of the delivery lifecycle. To achieve optimal freshness and keep customers happy, grocers, retailers and their trusted partners need to focus on three primary food freshness factors: Temperature, storage and packaging.

Controlling each of these issues starts at the warehouse.

Freshness Starts at the Warehouse

For most parcels, such as clothing, books and other commonly ordered goods, temperature control is rarely an issue. However, facilities that store perishable foods have a constant component to manage—temperature fluctuation.

According to the NRDC, cooling and refrigeration inconsistency is one of the biggest contributors to food spoilage and waste. This is because every food item has a definable maximum shelf life, and storing them at less than optimal or constantly changing temperatures can exacerbate and drastically shorten its timeline.

Mistakes with heightened temperatures on items like meat and poultry can also lead to bacteria growth and foodborne illnesses. In fact, the CDC estimates that 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States, putting a spotlight on how seriously food safety issues need to be taken.

The Need for Proper Rotation Processes

First expiration, first out (FEFO) is a motto all organizations should live by when stocking inventory. In addition, it is a critical process when working to avoid the food spoilage crisis. It may come as a surprise, but not all distribution centers have this type of rotation system in place. This means organizations could send spoiled food to consumers because an item was pushed to the back of a refrigerator during the re-stocking process and unknowingly shipped passed its expiration date. Not only does this create massive amounts of food waste, tarnish a brand and eat into a company’s profits by replacing low margin products, but consuming a spoiled food item can also be detrimental to one’s health.

While it helps to keep these types of costly errors in mind, as warehouse operations grow, there’s no possible way to manually scale this system.

Luckily, breakthroughs in cold chain technology have produced automated solutions that help organizations track everything from expiration dates to potential recalls. These types of technology support the entire cold chain lifecycle and ensure that warehouses and their grocery partners have the visibility they need to ensure freshness from fulfillment to the customer’s doorstep.

However, when the product is ready to leave the warehouse, it’s arguably about to enter the hardest portion of the cold chain lifecycle: Delivery.

Key Considerations for Packaging

For fragile items, packaging is all about keeping the item protected from drops and damage, but for food the focus should be on keeping the item fresh and at optimum temperatures throughout the duration of transit.

Given many grocers outsource delivery, they have little interest in whether food spoils, mainly because they are unaware of the package contents and are more focused on getting the item to the right location fast and effectively.

Yet there are many obstacles that need to be addressed during the last leg of delivery. What is the temperature in the delivery vehicle? If no one is home or at the office, will the package spoil outside in the heat?

For perishables, it is imperative that spoilage rates, delays in shipping schedules and unattended delivery scenarios are important factors in determining the amount of cold pack and protective stuffing that goes into the package. If these factors are not considered, customers could return to spoiled, melted or even crushed perishables.

Getting Food Fast and Fresh

Today, grocers and retailers are bullish on building out omnichannel food initiatives. However, balancing brick and mortar locations while developing profitable and efficient online delivery systems is often more than one organization can take on. While there are trusted partners designed to support eCommerce fulfillment and delivery, few are purpose-built to handle perishable foods.

Either way, in order to see wide-scale adoption of online grocery initiatives, grocers, retailers and ecosystem partners need to start prioritizing the key temperature, storage and packaging considerations and challenges associated shipping perishable foods. Acknowledging these challenges and implementing solutions for them will not only keep your products and deliveries fresh, but they will also keep customers coming back for more.

Doug Sutton, Steritech
Retail Food Safety Forum

What Attracts Customers to Your Restaurant, and What Could Keep Them Away Forever?

By Doug Sutton
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Doug Sutton, Steritech

The most recent numbers from Black Box Intelligence reflect what has been an ongoing trend for the last several months—improving same store sales. Sounds like great news, right? It could be, if another key metric wasn’t trending in the wrong direction.

Traffic numbers in restaurants are on a very steady down slope. In the third quarter, traffic was down 1.3%, and in October, traffic slowed down by another 2.2%.

The bottom line: Fewer people are dining out, but they’re spending more money.

For now.

Earlier this year, a survey of 500+ consumers asked them several questions about their preferences and experiences when dining out, as well as how they are making their decisions. The results could help restaurant operators adjust their customer experience to help bring more traffic through the door.

Despite Low Traffic Numbers, Americans Still Dine Out Frequently

Consumers have a lot of choice when purchasing a prepared meal these days: Restaurants or prepared foods from a grocery store? Dine in or take out? Fast food, fast casual, or full-service dining? The list goes on and on.

Sixty percent of the above-mentioned survey takers had dined at a restaurant, whether sit-in or delivery, once a week or more frequently. Another 25% reported doing the same two to three times a month.

But there is stiff competition.

Nearly 70% of the same group has purchased prepared foods (pre-made sushi, fried chicken, sandwiches, etc.) at a grocery or convenience store in the last month, indicating that the convenience of prepared foods is taking root in American life. This is an increase from a similar survey conducted in 2016, when slightly more than 65% of respondents said they had purchased a prepared meal from these sources.

What Are Customers Really Looking for in a Restaurant?

It should come as no surprise, that the driving factor for choosing a restaurant is the quality of the food. Respondents of this survey were provided a list of 10 areas of food safety and operational items to choose from and asked them to choose up to five that matter to them most when choosing a restaurant. Food quality and taste was the frontrunner by far, but restaurant cleanliness was second.

The third item on the list might surprise people. It wasn’t speed of service, or order accuracy, or service quality—while they all do matter to customers, it’s their previous experience with a location or chain that matters most.

When Customers Want Answers about a Restaurant, They Go Online

Social media and online reviews are playing an increasingly important role in how customers share their experiences with restaurants. The news about social media and online review sites is good for restaurants. If you’re doing a good job with your customer experience, your customers are willing to talk about it.

Respondents were extremely likely to use social media to share a restaurant experience on a social media platform such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram: 58%, said they would be very or somewhat likely to share a restaurant experience on social media. Even better news? Among those who fell into these two categories, nearly two-thirds say they are more likely to share a positive experience than a negative one.

The same holds true for online restaurant review sites, such as Yelp! And OpenTable. While fewer customers say they are very or somewhat likely to share their experience on an online restaurant review site, 49% of those who use review sites once again say that a positive experience is more likely to garner a review than a negative one. A full 66% of those who would be likely to use an online review site are likely to post a positive experience over a negative one.

Especially in the case of online restaurant review sites, this is important. Why? Because nearly three-quarters of respondents sometimes or often use restaurant review sites to help select where they will dine. Among those respondents, the online review carries significant weight in making their decision. Nearly 25% say online reviews are extremely or very influential in their dining decisions, while another 41% qualified them as moderately influential.

Delivery Problems and Who Customers Blame

Most restaurant operators know that there are big dollars to be had in the delivery space. But, the results of this survey indicate that restaurants have a bit of work to do.

Well over half (58.9%) of those surveyed had ordered food for delivery in the six months before the survey. Of those, nearly 30% experienced a problem with their order: Food being cold, wrong food, took too long to deliver the food, etc.

Here’s the important takeaway for restaurants offering delivery: Whether you manage delivery yourself or use a third-party delivery service, customers that experience problems place the fault squarely on the restaurant. Among those that experienced a delivery problem, 79.55% say the restaurant was to blame. That’s important because with third-party delivery service, the restaurant does lose some control over time it takes to deliver, food security, and more.

Foodborne Illness Outbreaks Have a Long-term Effect on Revenue

A 2018 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health put a price tag on foodborne illness outbreaks for restaurants: Anywhere from $4,000 up to $1.9 million wrapped up in “lost revenue, fines, lawsuits, legal fees, insurance premium increases, inspection costs and staff retraining.”

The survey results discussed in this article show that the effects of a foodborne illness outbreak could linger for much longer than anyone truly realizes.

Nearly 30% of respondents said they would never eat at that location if they knew a foodborne illness outbreak had happened there; 24% said they would stay away for between one to six months, and another 18% said they would stay away for six months to a year.

The responses get more dramatic when chain restaurants have foodborne illness incidents. When asked if they would avoid eating at other locations in the chain if a single location was involved in an outbreak, more than 31% said yes, and a whopping 50% say maybe. The majority of respondents would give the chain a second shot, however. Only 19% say they’d never eat at any location in the chain again; more than half (over 58%) report that they would only stay away for between one month and one year.

If multiple locations of a chain are involved, the percentage of respondents that would avoid eating at other locations in the chain more than doubled to more than 68%. The bulk of those who would stop eating at other locations in the chain (31%) say they’d never eat at the chain again, while another 18.5% would avoid the chain for longer than a year. Another 23% say they’d stay away for six months to one year.

Customer Experience Investments Can Reap Big Rewards

This survey revealed plenty of other details about what customers are looking for—what cleanliness factors drive them crazy, what they think of health department scores (and which groups are really paying attention), what really turns them off when they read it in a review—but the real takeaway is this: Restaurants willing to invest in customer experience and a culture of food safety will reap the rewards from customers.