Customer Service Kudos Opinion Social Media

Grocery stores step up to the customer service plate

I’m so accustomed to citing Costco’s legendary customer service that it’s hard to fathom that other retailers are making their own contributions. Two grocery store experiences over the last couple weeks deserve high praise for service above and beyond.

While vacationing in Florida, I went to Publix (largest employee-owned US company according to Forbes) in search of some incredibly yummy flatbread crackers discovered at the home of friends. The brand didn’t show in our initial search, so we asked a clerk. He went all over the store in search of the crackers, even though we said it wasn’t a big deal. When unable to locate them, he conferred with a colleague who continued the search and found the product.

In a retail environment where the standard operating policy appears to be “get ‘em off your back as quickly as possible” either with a shrug of the shoulders or inaccurate direction, this blew me away. We thanked them profusely and reported our terrific treatment to the store manager, requesting that they receive a reward.

No small feat, this experience was topped by a Parker, CO King Soopers (Kroger) store. I requested a dark roast from the in-store Starbucks and was told they had stopped brewing it. I walked away and moved on to my shopping. About five minutes later, a women approached me with a cup of coffee and asked if I was the person who had ordered dark roast. When I nodded “yes,” she gave it to me at no charge and said her employee should have offered to brew more coffee.

To put it mildly, this indelibly etched a happy face in my brain. Cathy, the Starbucks Manager, deserves huge kudos. It reminds me that amid all the woefully poor customer treatment out there, efforts are in play to give customers a better experience.

The stark contrast between the “haves” and “have-nots” in the customer service arena is widening, somewhat like the chasm between rich and poor in the US. Typically, customer service comes across as uncaring, inattentive, and insincere—and the problem is growing as more stressors (e.g., workforce shortages, economic challenges, supply chain issues) proliferate.

Amid these trends, fortunately, there are bright spots. Perhaps retailers are seeing how the stellar customer service of such companies as Costco is driving healthy growth in revenues and positive reputation management.

Some of this, no doubt, is driven by the increasing influence of social media, online reviews, and reputation ratings. The old adage that one dissatisfied customer will tell 10 other people needs to be updated, depending on how that one person interacts with digital platforms. One well-written negative review can have huge influence. One terrible customer experience that goes viral can adversely impact same-day stock prices.

Regardless of motivation, it’s clear that corporate America is starting to connect the dots between doing good on behalf of all stakeholders—including customers, employees, partners, and vendors—and more profits. Increasingly, companies continuing totally bottom-line-driven strategies will see market share, revenues, and reputation wither away.


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