Winn-Dixie Promotes Customer Service

Discussion
Nov 03, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


For the first time in its history, Winn-Dixie has created an executive level position focused solely on customer service.


The embattled grocery store chain has promoted Scott Moore from senior director of training and development to vice president of store training and front-end service.


Mr. Moore’s duties, reports The Business Journal of Jacksonville, will include some operational aspects, including making store lobbies “inviting, bright and staffed with friendly and knowledgeable associates who let customers know Winn-Dixie truly appreciates their business.”


According to the same report, Winn-Dixie chief Peter Lynch intends to “fill a ‘customer czar’ position, which will be more strategic and broader in scope, and include functioning as a customer advocate on the company’s senior management team.” 


Moderator’s Comment: Is what Winn-Dixie is doing – creating executive level positions focused on customer service – unusual within the grocery industry
and broader retail? If the right people are in place, what will Winn-Dixie be able to do with its vice president of store training and front-end service and “customer czar” positions?


George Anderson – Moderator

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14 Comments on "Winn-Dixie Promotes Customer Service"


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Douglas Gray
Guest
Douglas Gray
15 years 4 months ago

How can this be bad? In 1998, I moved to South Florida and soon decided that I would NEVER become a Winn-Dixie shopper. But they are actually going beyond advertising and lip service to make real changes at store level. I don’t know what they did to improve the attitudes of their employees, but it is working. The stores are more inviting and they have lower prices than the market leader. Winn-Dixie needed to make drastic changes and they just may be able to survive if they can continue to improve. Never say never; I have actually become a weekly Winn-Dixie customer.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
15 years 4 months ago

I’ll believe it when I see it and experience it. Giving somebody a title doesn’t mean anything will change. They don’t have the room in the P&L to fund any kind of improvement. True customer service is not something one person can create, it has to be part of the total culture from the CEO on down. Due to the baggage the company carries, there’s no way this can work across the entire chain.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 4 months ago

This is like admitting that customer service wasn’t important up until now – the sort of information I’d recommend not representing as “news.” The only possible reason for this announcement is to influence market analysts and WD’s bankruptcy panel. Al, do you feel the wind whistling ’round your ears way out on that limb?

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 4 months ago

The retail scholars among us, perhaps that’s a contradiction in terms to some of you readers, will remember some lessons taught in Alice in Wonderland such as “I’m late, I’m late for a very important date.”

Customer service has been losing its aura in Winn-Dixie for two decades. They have operated lack-luster stores, cut back on service departments and lost dynamics in their merchandising. Thus, creating an alleged new slot of V.P. of Store Training and Front-end Service has merit but it’s “late for a very important date” in Winn-Dixie stores.

Scott Moore may have unusually unique talents to bring a new image to a constrained and struggling Winn-Dixie. Let’s hope so. But I would suggest that the profile person who should have undertaken that necessary challenge to gain the greatest currency with everyone from Winn-Dixie employees to would-be Winn-Dixie shoppers would be CEO Peter Lynch.

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
15 years 4 months ago

There once was an exec named Moore,

A customer-czar for the store,

A real retail coup

Or no big whoop-di-doo.

Frankly, I’m not really sure.

Winn-Dixie thinks Moore is the man

To do what nobody else can.

Customers he will please

And put them at ease,

A move to approve or to pan.

Enough of this lame little ditty.

I’m time starved and know it is sh–ty,

But it all has been said

In the comments I’ve read,

But to not write at all was a pity.

Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
15 years 4 months ago
Actually, I agree with all of you. On one hand, this is an excellent idea. On the other hand, it might be weakly implemented. From the opinions I’ve read (I have no research directly on the following), Winn-Dixie’s biggest threat (more than other chains) is Wal-Mart. I DO have research that shows that big improvements in customer service has an INSIGNIFICANT impact in keeping customers from defecting to Wal-Mart and in bringing customers back from Wal-Mart. We have validated this four different ways now, and I feel quite confident of our data on this point. There are other proven ways to bring customers back into supermarkets, though — the cause is not lost. If I am correct about that, then what Winn-Dixie CAN do by improving customer service is to draw customers from other supermarkets. I find this a reasonably good strategy in the short term. I agree that there is a lot more to it than giving an executive a title, and from my data, I believe Winn-Dixie will indeed do a lot more… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Change management always requires commitment from the top. Creation of this position either means someone at the top now has the power to implement and support change or that all issues go to one person and no longer have to concern the people managing the business. The scope of authority that goes along with this position will make a huge difference.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 4 months ago

I’m going to go out on a lonely limb here and say this is a good thing. Once companies get a bad rap (ala Winn-Dixie Sears/Kmart), it seems they can do no right in the minds of the media and analysts. In this case, the move may not be monumental, but how exactly can it be a bad thing to train people to be a little more friendly and helpful, and maybe spruce up the checkouts and entrances a bit? If their sales per square foot are already dismal, they probably have a little extra time on their hands to work on treating the customer better. And if all they do is get a few more shoppers to come back, come back more often, tell their friends the service has improved, or buy a little more when they shop, these are all good things, right?

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
15 years 4 months ago
No, this is not unusual. As already noted, it is only what it is. An executive. Changing corporate culture, and building a core competency linked to a market place differentiation takes a great deal more than adding a box to an org chart. On the other hand, I am encouraged by the background of the individual. What’s needed here? First, please, show me the business plan and economic model which supports a total corporate realignment toward customer service excellence. Show me the processes, the compensation schemes, the business management support structure, the labor cost difference, the investment in methods and training……and so much more. But remember…we are outsiders. Is this a good thing? Probably. In the market Winn-Dixie operates in, differentiating on the basis of superior customer experience is as good a business model as any they could have settled on. Publix is relatively well positioned in this niche already, but is not by any means a best-in-class example of cohesive customer service excellence. So, as usual, I withhold judgment, hoping to avoid the sin… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

I agree with Mark and Warren. This is just the same job with a different title. Winn-Dixie has basically done nothing at all here other than change the title of one person’s job. It’s going to be very difficult to improve customer service in a chain that has been removing service departments over the past few years and cutting labor to the bone. If Winn-Dixie was doing $6 to $7 per sq ft per week I think they’d have a shot at improving. But being at the bottom of the industry at around $5 — well there is no point in whipping a badly beaten horse down the stretch.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

I’ve known of chains who have, in effect, a customer advocate — but generally under a different title, with split responsibilities. But the function gets done. The biggest challenge is in the HR department — attracting and keeping capable, enthusiastic employees on the floor. (And having enough of them.) If that could be done, you wouldn’t need this position. It’s a good idea, and I am sure good will come of it for Winn-Dixie, but this person will need ammunition that is usually lacking at most supermarkets.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Creating a position with a title is easy and it’s been done before. How much real authority comes with the title? What is the budget and which functions report to the position? To whom does the position report? How will performance be evaluated and how often? Is this just amateurish image building or is it real?

Sarah W
Guest
Sarah W
15 years 3 months ago

Personally, I worked for Winn-Dixie as a Front End Manager for many years. I can count the number of serious customer service complaints within the past 10 years on both hands. The thing is, if the Store Manager and Front End Manager do their jobs, this position is unnecessary. I feel it is nothing more than a waste of corporate dollars. Winn-Dixie has tried several times to “invent” Customer Service related supervisory roles only to dissolve them within a couple years. I say, put the money back in to the stores. Use it to staff the stores, since 90% of customer complaints relate to long check out lines.

Shane Pagano
Guest
Shane Pagano
15 years 3 months ago

Here in the Orlando, FL market, where Winn-Dixie still has a strong presence, I have noticed a lot of improvement in 2 stores in particular: Winn-Dixie’s Downtown Orlando location on Colonial Drive. This store was filthy and run down and the last few times I have been in there, the stores were noticeably cleaner, better stocked and they have even bought new grocery baskets! The customer service is very good…my only complaint with this store is they don’t offer paper bags and they don’t sell blueberries and raspberries in their produce dept.

Winn-Dixie in Heathrow is a fabulous store; immaculate, helpful staff; great selection. This is a store they should model themselves after. I truly hope the W/D survives!… Maybe if all else fails they can convert the W/D stores left to a new banner, like they are doing with Kash ‘n Karry to Sweetbay’s.

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