Monday, November 26, 2012

Giving thanks for great customer service.

Welcome to Neenah, Festival Foods
A new Festival Foods opened in our neighborhood a few days ago. In the scheme of things a new grocery store isn’t exactly a big deal, but I’ve been whining about the lack of a nice grocery store since we moved to the west side of the Fox Cities a year ago.

Festival is a family-owned grocery chain operating a dozen or so stores across Wisconsin. Its employees seem to take genuine pride in their stores, they want their customers to enjoy not just the groceries, but also the grocery shopping experience, and they want their customers to return.

Imagine that.

It’s time for a competitor sitting just a couple of blocks away from the new store to wake up and smell the coffee. As the construction of the Festival store progressed, the competitor’s shelves were often out of stock or stocked with products well past their expiration date, the store was frequently dirty in appearance, and employees didn’t seem to notice—or care—if customers walked through the doors.

Of course, they’ll try to clean things up now that the new store is open, and I suppose there will be special bargains intending to lure us away from the shiny Festival store, but for many of their customers—including me—it’s too late. We’ll never return.

And here’s what I don’t understand. Even if you don’t like your job, where’s the harm in trying to help someone? Or in letting management know that customers have concerns? Or in making the best out of a bad situation? Isn’t doing a good job always more satisfying than not?

I know that in this economy, keeping the quality-to-service ratio in balance can be a challenge. And I get the fact that most businesses today are doing more with less. But it seems that’s all the more reason for those who are fortunate enough to be in business and to have jobs to at least try and meet the needs of the customers who are paying the bills.

At my husband’s company, a new employee began work today. Always wanting to make a good first impression, the company began the process of preparing for her arrival weeks ago. Office furniture, a telephone, and a computer were ordered for her new office and with each email or phone call to a vendor, the company discovered that its service expectations were unrealistic. No phone. No computer. No furniture. Not for several weeks.*

In this challenging economy when hiring is slow and spending is down, how can it be that some companies are taking their customer relationships for granted? Why aren’t they rolling up their sleeves and making sure that today’s loyal customer stays that way? Why do they behave as if customers have no alternatives?

There is a bagel shop in Green Bay that I patronized for years. The service is always slow and the employees are often more focused on each other than their customers, but the bagels are better than any I’ve had in Wisconsin. I’ve been known to wait in line for 20 minutes or more because, if I want a first-rate bagel, there are none better. Said another way, the quality is so good that I am willing to give up on service.

Most of the time, we do have choices and we don't have to give up on service. We can pick up an identical computer at an electronics store or order it online, and, if necessary, we can even take the time to install it ourselves. We can buy our groceries at the giant big-box retail store or try the new meat market that recently opened down the road. As consumers, we still get to decide where we spend our hard-earned dollars, and “earning” our business should be the norm.

Especially in times like these, we should choose carefully and reward exceptional service.

*Update:  After indicating that timely delivery and installation of the phone and computer were not possible, and after strained conversations with the unhappy customer, I am pleased to report that the phone and computer arrived just in time.   They’re still waiting for furniture ...

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  1. "the quality is so good that I am willing to give up on service". Well-said. Very few businesses can afford to gamble on that premise. Sometimes, it's a wonder that so many businesses which offer average quality/price/selection continue to exist, with such abysmal customer service.

  2. Thanks, Tim. As I reflect more on the subject, there are so many businesses that go "above and beyond" distinguishing themselves from the rest. My bank, First National Bank Fox Valley comes to mind. I was a lifelong People's Marine/Bank One/Chase customer and dealing with their customer service people by phone - with mistake after mistake - put me over the edge. I'm making it a point now to thank people for great service when I experience it.

  3. Sheree, a big "Amen and Hallelujah" on your importance of good customer service blog post. I couldn't agree with you more both generally and specifically as it applies to Festival Foods and Pick 'n Save. The difference is dramatic, and obvious. Here's hoping business folks who should know better anyway, take your message to heart and put it to practice.

  4. Sheree thanks for the warm welcome - Festival Foods is thrilled to be open in Neenah and serving so many new guests. We look forward to being a part of the Neenah community.
    Merry Christmas
    Jacque Turner
    Festival Foods
    Customer Care/Social Media Manager