A Fresh Approach to Superior Customer Service

Oct 17, 2002

By Al

Harold Lloyd, a retailing consultant with many years’ experience as a supermarket operator and several as a restaurateur, gave a high energy seminar titled “Superior Customer Service? Only if Your Staff Wants it to Happen!” at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit, held this week in New Orleans.

Mr. Lloyd is a strong advocate of personal involvement of top management in goings on at store-level. His 80-minute seminar included hundreds of ideas, revolving around the idea of making your customers and your employees part of your “family”. Here are a few favorite ideas:

  • Make sure your company has a brief mission statement that all employees commit to memory, understand, and are guided by.

  • Talk to your associates like people, in a friendly fashion, in all your corporate communications.

  • Make sure new employees feel part of the team – assign a buddy to them for the first 30-days, call them after two weeks to see how they like their job.

  • Communicate often to associates via bulletin boards, newsletters, regular department and manager meetings, informal 10-minute “huddle ups”, and have an open door policy.

  • When disciplining, do it fairly, constructively, professionally, and in a way that is motivational and non-personal.

  • Recognize achievements through incentive plans, birthday recognitions, departmental goals, service awards, complimentary notes mailed to associate’s homes, etc.

  • Have a Performance Update – not a review – at least annually. Make sure the manager’s boss attends, to minimize intimidation and let the employee do 75% of the talking.

  • Survey your customers often, and through a variety of means, to ensure you’re listening to a cross-section. Some ways to communicate: direct mail survey of non-shoppers, random telephone surveys, visit competitors, conduct consumer intercepts on a neutral site, and conduct focus groups of infrequent shoppers.

  • Make sure you impress customers in the areas where they are looking, such as the entrance, service desk, restrooms, checkouts and at the point of contact. No-no’s include pointing customers to what they are looking for rather than walking them over and having non-working services such as out-of-order vending machines or kiddie rides at the entrance.

Moderator’s Comment: Two Questions:

  1. What do store managers need to do to better motivate
    associates and serve customers?

  2. Is the failure on this issue primarily one of time
    management/priorities on the part of the store manager or corporate direction
    that discourages “hands on” management?

Many big box managers are so caught up with duties that
keep them behind a desk that they have lost touch (assuming they ever had it)
with their customers and the associates that work in the store. This isn’t a
new problem. It is still an inadequately resolved one in many, if not most,
big box stores today. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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