Quantifying Good and Bad Customer Service in Retail


When I go into a “Big Grocery” store, I immediately take notice of all of the signs singing the praises of their personnel.

Signs that feature a picture of a member of the team with a smiling face with the words “Can I help you?” plastered in bold underneath. Or another sign with a friendly team member asking a customer “Can I help you?” In my experience, those smiling faces do not occur when you ask the same people for help.

Big Grocery is the classic example of all three pieces of America’s Customer Service Disaster.

  1. Thin skinned behavior. These people are not just unfriendly when you ask for help or ask where the polka dot olives are. They are downright disturbed and annoyed that you are taking them away from stacking the shelves or heading to break. Disturbed and annoyed.  And if you really want to test the waters, ask for something special in the Deli area, like 5/8 pound of turkey and ¼ pound of salami.  A place where Big Grocery loses dollars every day of every week of every year to a competitor that has NO advantages over Big Grocery other than a smile on the team’s voices and faces.
  2. Misuse of Technology.  Don’t even get me started on the website.
  3. The Disconnect. They say they are great but they are tone deaf with the customers. The end result of all this is that there still exists in the grocery game a place for the little guy.

Here’s how


Big Grocery is hard to get through, hard to checkout, hard to find items, hard to get through the isle without getting slaughtered by bad drivers that give you a dirty look, hard to get a smile from the cheese guy, and as hard as getting your wisdom teeth pulled to get a refund for rotten peaches—-which drip all over the seat on the way to refund denial.

Here is what Big Grocery has done.

They’ve created a perfect storm for a small, customer service, quality-centric competitor. In this case I’ll say who it is:  Paul’s Fruit Market.

Based out of Louisville, KY, these small chains do NOT sell a single item that Big Grocery does not sell.  And, Paul’s Fruit Market is more expensive than Big Grocery. Plus, shopping at Paul’s requires an extra trip which, if you’ve ever been to one of their locations, you know that these stores are not located in areas which are easy to get to and park.

But when you get there, you’ll notice that the employees working at the cash register always have a smile on their face. The guys wearing their smocks will gladly recommend the best apples depending on the season and the ladies in the garden section will show you a better plant for a better price. Best of all, if something isn’t consistent with their reputation for quality, they’ll give you your money back without a question. You can pre-order items on their website and, here’s a novel idea:

They answer their phones! Crazy concept!

The disconnect? They don’t spend a nickel on advertising. All generated by goodwill and word of mouth.

Bottom Line is that every single dollar Paul’s generates comes from the shortfall at Big Grocery.  Every penny.  There is no single reason why Paul’s should even exist but they THRIVE.  If I had a shot at Big Grocery’s training I could put Paul’s into siege mode.  Right now Big Grocery is Paul’s lifeline.

The last comment and 1 other comment(s) need to be approved.
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *