I never got to shop there myself, but over the years I’ve met many people who did and they invariably had their own, personal service stories to tell:
I stopped in around dinnertime, having just picked up my 18-month-old from daycare. She’d neither eaten nor had a recent diaper change and was wailing up a storm. I pushed my cart into one aisle and saw an employee – probably late teens – stacking shelves. When he heard the screaming baby, he dropped the soup cans and ran out of the aisle. But not 20 seconds later, he was back. He’d run to the bakery department, grabbed a cookie and asked if it might help her feel better!
I was in search of chopped walnuts for my annual Christmas baking spree. The shelf was empty and the grocery manager confirmed they were out of stock. But then he said, “Carry on with your shopping. I’ll take care of this.” I then watched as he went to the front of the store, nabbed one of the employees bagging groceries, handed him a $10 bill and told him to run across the street (to a competitor’s store!) and buy a bag of walnuts. By the time I was in the checkout line, the young man was back, handed me the bag of nuts with a smile and wished me a Merry Christmas!
Before we moved to Dallas, we lived in Virginia and always shopped there. About six months after the move (when the Postal Service stopped forwarding their advertising flyers) I received a personal note from the President. The note said how it had come to his attention that we’d left the Richmond area; how he wanted to thank us for our patronage during the years we’d lived there; how he wished us the best of luck in our new home in Texas and how, if we ever returned to Virginia, he’d love to welcome us back to Ukrop’s.
There are some interesting take-aways here. First, everyone I met was an enthusiastic, unpaid member of the store’s marketing department. They loved to tell their stories and recruit new customers. Second, they all agreed that it was more expensive to shop there, but absolutely worth it. Finally, it doesn’t get much more commoditized than chopped walnuts. But the fantastic service was enough to break that price sensitivity.
So, what’s it like to shop at your architecture or engineering store?
You didn’t know you had a store, did you? But you have customers. They come in to buy 10 pounds of engineering, or architecture, or planning... And the whole time they’re evaluating what it’s like to shop at your place. What’s it like to phone in to your office? What’s it like to have one of your Project Managers run a meeting? What is the ‘customer experience’ like at your firm?
Every retail operator in the world today is talking about ‘customer experience’ and trying to make it better. Our industry is no different and our ‘customers’ will shop around until they find a store where they like to shop. Why not make it a point to ask some of your customers about their experience. And then do something to make it better.
You’ve got a lot of competitors and they all sell the same chopped nuts that you do. What’s it like to shop at your store?