FOCUSING ON THE CUSTOMER: DeCA assesses mission, vision progress during 2021, adjusts direction to work harder for patrons in 2022 – DVIDS

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Photo By Kevin Robinson | Customers stand in line to enter the Fort Campbell Commissary in Kentucky. read more read more
Photo By Kevin Robinson | Customers stand in line to enter the Fort Campbell Commissary in Kentucky.  see less | View Image Page
By Keith Desbois, DeCA public affairs specialist

FORT LEE, Va. – “We have made great progress this first year. Now we need to assess where we are, and adjust our way ahead based on what we’ve learned, along with the dynamics of our rapidly evolving environment.”

That’s what Bill Moore, DeCA director and CEO, told agency senior leaders who gathered for the agency’s Transformation Summit at its headquarters in mid-December. The event assessed how the agency was performing in its year-old vision of being “THE grocery provider of choice for our eligible patrons – delivering a vital benefit exclusively for our military community and their families.”

This year the focus remains on the customer, but with lessons learned from the continuing pandemic. The vision embraces ways that will better serve the military community with a patron focus while saving them money on their groceries.

“2021 was another challenging year due to the ongoing pandemic for us to make sure our customers had the items they wanted and needed,” said Moore. “Moving forward and by adjusting our focus, we will work harder with our industry partners to ensure we have a steady distribution of product and the personnel available to get it onto our shelves, providing great customer service as well.”

The agency’s mission statement, to “deliver a vital benefit of the military pay system that provides grocery items at a significant savings in order to enhance quality of life and readiness,” focuses on the agency’s priority to deliver patron savings as mandated by Congress. Leaders discussed each of DeCA’s existing six lines of effort (LOE), created to address how the agency can better serve customers and improve the shopping experience.

Moore noted that DeCA had achieved major successes in the information technology and workforce investment LOEs. The agency was able to offer Commissary CLICK2GO online ordering and payment services at all stores worldwide. DeCA also improved its training and customer service components to ensure employees have more opportunities to advance within the organization, while also providing them the tools they need to provide premier customer service.

Some of the more challenging LOEs were in the logistics and supply chain. Ongoing shortages of products and delivery trucks due to the pandemic have made it difficult to keep store shelves stocked. The group noted these problems are affecting grocery stores nationwide, and are not unique to the commissary. Different ideas to combat the problem, such as sourcing more trucks as well as direct delivery of product to the stores, were discussed.

Another area DeCA will concentrate on is patron outreach. This effort focuses on expanding patronage by educating and conducting informational events to get more of the newest patrons – disabled veterans – into the stores. The agency also wants to increase focus on customer feedback by better responding to comments provided on the annual Commissary Customer Service Survey and ForeSee customer feedback tool.

Looking to the future, DeCA is striving to anticipate emerging patron needs and do what it takes to be THE grocery provider of choice for eligible patrons.

“The pandemic has taught us that customers are looking for more convenient ways to shop,” said Moore. “We learned from our focus group of new young, single enlisted service members that they value the convenience factor more than price and they want low cost, healthy options. One of our main priorities moving forward is offering them that convenience and healthy meals while still saving them money by shopping at their commissary.

“Look for Commissary CLICK2GO delivery services where you live, near the base, on the base and even in your barracks,” he added. “Look for more dietitian- and nutritionist-approved meal planning solutions to help ensure you and your family are mission ready. Look for choices, pricing and a modern shopping environment not only better than we’ve ever been, but as good as we need to be to in order to be your preferred grocery provider.”

About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Commissaries provide a military benefit, saving authorized patrons thousands of dollars annually on their purchases compared to similar products at commercial retailers. The discounted prices include a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America’s military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.
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