I live in close proximity to several different chains of grocery stores. I’ve been a loyal shopper to one particular location since 2005 and have never thought twice about stepping inside another store unless it was out of necessity. That all changed a few months ago when I started to see my customer experience go from one of total satisfaction to one of complete frustration.
Every Sunday afternoon I create a meal plan for the week, which always includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. With my list in hand, I head to the grocery store working my way to our family favorites such as apples, avocados, and peppers. However, on this particular Sunday I noticed these items (and many others) were in total disarray with only a few bruised and spoiled items remaining in the bins. As I looked around and noticed no one would be restocking these items I improvised and recreated my menu based on what was available to me at that time.
Like many loyal customers subject to a random bad experience I gave them the benefit of the doubt and headed back the following Sunday. Unfortunately, I was again met with minimal selection and poor quality of the produce.
Lessons Learned in the Produce Aisle
Finally, after a few weeks of similar incidents I decided to visit the store on a day I normally wouldn’t. I was happy but shocked at how different my experience was. The shelves were stocked, fruits and vegetables were fresh, and store employees greeted me enthusiastically. “Wow!” I thought, “I should come on Tuesdays more often.”
However, I don’t want to shop Tuesdays. It’s not convenient for me. I was upset, why isn’t this level of service available to me every time I visit the store?
In any industry, customers expect you to deliver great service on a consistent basis. Getting there requires unwavering support from “C-level” executives for service excellence. It necessitates the courage to ask for and address service gaps with customers. It means you must hold all employees accountable to high service standards and create a culture in which employees understand their role in the service experience and are empowered to deliver.
I’ve since started shopping at a new location, but I have come to this location on occasion. I have noticed they’ve moved items to new aisles and now claim faster checkout lanes, yet they still struggle to keep produce fresh. It’s unfortunate that they don’t truly understand what customers want and they apparently have no process in place to gather that critical information.
The bottom line is – it doesn’t matter how large or small your organization is or whether you serve consumers or other businesses, customers need consistently positive experiences, especially loyal customers. The best companies rely on customer feedback to enhance those experiences at every touchpoint.