(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEE, Va. – “We have made great progress [this] 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 was the instruction Bill Moore, Defense Commissary Agency director and CEO, gave to his senior leaders gathered for the agency’s Transformation Summit at its headquarters on Fort Lee in mid-December. The event assessed how the agency performed in its year-old vision of being “THE grocery provider of choice for eligible patrons – delivering a vital benefit exclusively for the military community and its families.”

This year, the agency retains its same focus on the customer, but with lessons learned from the continuing pandemic. The vision embraces ways that will better serve the military community with a valued 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,” Moore said. “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 provide patron savings as mandated by Congress.

Conference attendees discussed each of DeCA’s 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. The group discussed different ideas to combat the problem, such as sourcing more trucks as well as direct delivery of product to the stores.

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,” Moore underscored. “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.

“My message to patrons is, 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.”