When I was 16 years old I started working for Belk Department Stores in Macon Georgia. At that time the Macon Mall was the largest shopping mall in the state and the parking lot reflected it. In my head it was obvious that I should park in the closest parking spot to the front door, but I quickly learned that that was not going to work out. It turns out that employees park in the most remote parking spaces available, and might even catch a bus from the car to the employee entrance. Of course, the parking spaces are reserved for customers, the ones paying the bills and walking out of your store with shopping bags.
It doesn’t seem like much, but this was a huge lesson for me and one that has stuck with me until this day. I can’t tell you how often I see an employee or even a manager walk out of their respective business and get into the car parked in the very first parking spot. I am probably the only one in the world that cares, but it actually makes me mad.
I spent many years working for Belk, and customer service was the most consistent message over that time. I remember my father giving me a book called “It’s Not My Department” by Peter Glen. You have probably heard that quote when shopping in any store, and it’s so frustrating for someone to pass the buck and not go the extra mile to provide good customer service. I’ve been known to give people a hard time if they reflect that image towards me because I know how important it is for the success of a company to have their best foot forward. If the face of your company isn’t reflecting your mission statement, success is going to be hard to find.
The same goes for restaurants. Martha always cringes when I ask the waiter for their recommendation. I do this because I am a food snob and I want to take advantage of my time in a restaurant and experience the best that they have to offer. Nine times out of ten I will go with my gut and not their recommendation which makes her even crazier, but it’s because they don’t do a good job convincing me. I think that it’s part of a waiter’s customer service duty to sell you on a dish, not the most expensive one but the best one. I always choose to go to the Capital Grille in Buckhead for my birthday dinners because they don’t mess around. Their customer service is off the charts and the waiters know how good their food is and they ooze confidence. They know the meats, they know the drinks that go with the meats, and at the end of your meal, you want to come back the next day to do it again.
The reason for this rant is tonight on my way home from showing some houses to a client I had to stop into Publix. I typically shop at the Chastain Square location but I was on the west side of Buckhead and so I stopped at the West Paces Ferry store. It was pouring down rain and a horrible time to grocery shop in general, but it had to be done.
I ran around the store drenched from the rain and grabbed what I needed, greeted along the way several times making sure I was able to find what I needed. As I pulled into aisle 2 I started unloading my groceries. A man kindly pushed me out of the way and started unloading my cart for me, which is pretty awesome but not needed. As the cashier is ringing up the final items, I realize out loud that I had forgotten to get milk. The guy that unloaded my groceries immediately started asking what kind of milk I wanted. I kindly ignored him, and even told him not to worry about it because I could get it…just set my stuff aside and I’ll run get it and we can do a second transaction. He would not have it at all. It was his mission to get me that milk and so he did. Minutes later he returned with my gallon of milk, I paid for it, turned around and the guy had two umbrellas, one for both of us. He was all over great customer service, even in the rain. He walked me to the car, helped me unload the groceries, and made sure I got in without getting wet.
For me, that’s what it’s all about. Going beyond the call of duty, or outside your department to help out the customer goes such a long way. I posted on Facebook about my experience tonight and the reaction was huge. People love Publix because their service rocks! One friend even posted about an employee running to another store while she was shopping to find an item she needed. That’s crazy!!!
Way to go customer service, I am a big fan.