Customers deliver better service than employees

I’ve been shopping at the same grocery store for 15 years. When I had a particularly bad experience due to lack of shopping carts, clerks unable to find things, out-of-date produce and no bagger available to help me out, I felt compelled to call the store.

The person I spoke to was gracious in taking my feedback and told me to stop in for a gift card left in my name in appreciation for bringing my experience to her attention.

When I stopped in a week later, there was no card and I was told that I had probably called the wrong store. They did however offer a lower valued card, all that the weekend staff were allowed to issue.

So I tried again a week later, finally reaching the store manager. By this time, I had figured out how to show him the text message from 411 documenting that I had indeed called the right store as well as the exact date and time that I’d had this interaction. He too politely listened and apologized for the experience and offered a gift for my trouble.

My gripe is that I tried really, really hard to give my feedback. I was frustrated that the store didn’t have a mechanism in place to communicate among their team so they’d know what I’d been promised. And, it left me wondering if anything was done with my feedback.

What can you learn from this?
  • If you get feedback from customers, you need a system in place to communicate the problem and the solution to your team.
  • It would have been more proactive and had greater positive impact to send the card to the customer with a thank you note rather than put the onus on the customer to request the card. It would have been even better to let the customer know what had been done with the feedback.
  • The store would profit from talking with employees about how real customers feel about their experiences and what needs to be done differently to enhance those interactions.

The further irony to this story is that on my second visit I witnessed the customers delivering more service than the employees. The gentleman in front of me in line noticed that the mechanism to move the items toward the cash register was not turned on. So, he manually moved his food forward to make room for me. Then he turned, and started helping me take things out of my cart and load it on the ramp. After I thanked him, he said he was just standing there so he might as well help. How lucky his grandchildren are to have a grandfather like him as a role model! Then the woman, who was behind me, revealed that she was back in line for the second time. During her first round at the checkout counter, her purse had covered a few items and she didn’t realize it until she was out at her car. So she brought them back to the store to pay for them. Now these customers are truly delivering service to this store. Maybe the customers should be training the employees!