Plenty of companies say they have excellent customer service but few know the value of seeking out opportunities to show they care and thereby create a lasting positive impression.
One company that has clearly taught its representatives to go beyond saying “Have a nice day” and instead make sure its customers actually do have a nice day is Publix. Based in Florida, this $30.6 billion supermarket chain has 883 retail stores spread across five southern states: Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Publix currently employs approximately 180,000 people. As incredible as that seems, what’s even more impressive is the obvious care they put into choosing the right people and training them to do the things that matter to customers.
Publix has received numerous awards for being a great place to shop. But customers don’t care about rewards.
Where Publix makes its best impression, in addition to maintaining clean, well-stocked, well-staffed stores, is in finding opportunities to do something unexpected and wonderful. Their people do the little things that feel like big things to their customers. Consider the following examples:
My 3-year-old niece loves riding in Publix’s kids’ shopping carts that look like a car complete with steering wheel. But each store has a limited number of these special carts. One time all those carts were in use and my niece was disappointed to find she’d have to ride in one of the plain carts.
Without our knowing it, one of the Publix employees recognized the situation. He kept an eye on the checkout lines and when one of the kids’ carts became available, he snagged it and searched for us in the store. He offered us the cart and even helped us transfer our groceries into the car cart. His extra effort delighted my niece, which in turn delighted me.
One of the butchers in the meats department noticed me staring at the roasts for sale, trying to make a decision. He came out from behind the counter and asked if he could help.
I told him I was planning to make a roast beef for Christmas but was nervous because I’d never made one before. He helped me select the right cut of beef and the right size for the number of people I was serving and with great enthusiasm wrote down some simple instructions for me to follow. He then walked me over to the seasonings section and gave me his personal recommendations. But that’s not even the amazing part.
The following week when I returned to Publix, the butcher saw me and came over and asked how my roast had come out. The fact that he remembered me and our conversation made him feel more like an old friend than just another employee at a grocery chain store.
My best Publix story, the one that prompted me to write this post, was something that took place a few days ago. I had done my week’s shopping and exited the store with my cart full of bagged groceries.
Much to my surprise, what had been a pleasant sunny day when I’d entered the store had turned into a torrential downpour. This wasn’t your typical light afternoon shower. It was a soak-you-through to-the-bone monsoon, the kind that makes you think, “Now I understand how Noah felt.”
Every person who came out of the store gasped when they saw the situation. Then they moved off to the side of the entrance to wait under the store overhang with their loaded shopping cart, hoping the storm would soon pass. By now it was after 6pm. Most people were still in their work clothes and anxious to get home and have dinner.
At least a dozen of us were waiting when a cheery employee from Publix suddenly walked out the door and began handing out large, sturdy umbrellas with Publix’s logo on them.
To each person he said, “Please take this umbrella to get to your car. I’ll watch your groceries for you here. When you pull up, just pop open your trunk and I’ll load them for you. Don’t even get out of your car. Then return the umbrella to me so the next person can go.”
The look of appreciation was evident on everyone’s face. Within minutes all of the customers who’d been waiting for the rain to let up were on their way home.
What a fabulous way for Publix to show its commitment to customer service! And all it cost Publix was the price of a dozen umbrellas. Absolutely brilliant.
The advertising tagline, “Where Shopping is a Pleasure,” was coined by Publix in 1954. Today, more than six decades later, the company is still finding new ways to add sincerity to that slogan.
If you’re in business, why not adopt Publix’s customer care philosophy? Look for opportunities to wow your patrons. Do the unexpected. Go out of your way to show you care. And recognize that not every “extra” has to have a direct and immediate impact on your bottom line.
Strive to become the best in your category and then, even after that ideal has been achieved, continue to improve. The little unexpected things you do will make a difference to your customers while contributing to your favorable reputation and long-term success.
You may not own a retail store and you probably don’t do billions in sales each year, but you can have a meaningful impact on your customers.
Susan Greene is a freelance copywriter located in Orlando, Florida, www.SusanGreeneCopywriter.com. She believes in doing the little things that feel like big things for her clients. Susan lives less than five minutes from a Publix store and admits she often takes her 3-year-old niece to the store just so she can push the kiddie carts.