There are so many places I absolutely dread going to because I know I can expect poor or just plain ol’ lazy customer service. This seems to have become the norm. It’s rare that I have an experience that blows me away, but I recently had an experience at Whole Foods which was exactly that. This made me ask the question, how do you hire employees that care?
Every Sunday, my brother (Zach) and I go to Whole Foods to have our weekly accountability meeting. This past Sunday was our 14th meeting so we’ve kept it up for a while, however, around mid-May we missed nearly a month of them because I was traveling. Not long before we started to miss a series of meetings, an employee there named John was at the register checking Zach out while I was already sitting down getting ready for our meeting.
We shop there rather frequently and so John recognized Zach and asked, “Where’s your girlfriend?” He was caught off guard at first but then realized that John must usually see him there when he’s with his girlfriend. He laughed and then told John about our weekly accountability meetings. When Zach was done checking out, he came over and told me about that positive interaction with John. I had never seen or met John, but hearing that story already made me think highly of him.
Just over two weeks ago, we got over our month slump without meeting. This past Sunday we switched up our routine a little, we were there at a different time, we had our meeting right when we got there, and then did some shopping afterward. Zach checked out before me and had already made his way outside. I was checking out with some bananas and some water, and another employee came up to quickly bag some stuff for me. As he handed me the bag he asked, “Where’s your brother?” I was confused at first, but then thought, “Is this John?” I had never met John, but I knew exactly who he was when he asked me that. Once I made the connection, I smiled and told him that Zach was outside already. He smiled back and we both carried on.
When I got outside, I was pumped. I couldn’t wait to tell my brother. So I first asked him what John looked like, and after he described his appearance I knew for sure that it was John. I carried on telling him about what happened, and my excitement then got him excited. What made us so excited about John was the fact that it’s been over a month since we’ve seen him but he still remembered that Zach and I do meetings there. I’ve never actually met or seen John before then but yet he knew who I was, that’s impressive. This goes to show just how observant and aware John is; it shows that he actually cares for the customers he serves.
Following our Whole Foods excursion, we decided to stop at Target to pick up a few things. After parking on the side of Target, we walked towards the entrance and as we rounded the corner we see an overfilled trash can and litter everywhere. It was disgusting to say the least. Zach then tells me how that trashcan is always filled to the brim yet no one ever does anything about it, which goes to show a lack of awareness from the Target employees.
As we made our way around Target grabbing our stuff, not a single Target employee greeted us. After grabbing everything we needed, we approached the checkout lines and we both groaned because the check out lines are always terrible. We saw an open register but to get to it we had to squeeze between someone’s cart and another register. I said “excuse me” as I was going through the opening, but the lady didn’t acknowledge me and started to push her cart forward. Finally I made it to the check out, and I was laughing telling Zach about the lady who nearly ran me over, but the woman checking me out found no humor in it and hardly said a word to either of us.
While we walked to the car, I joked around saying that the Target employees should be re-trained, but behind my joking was sincerity. Zach laughed and agreed with me, and continued to tell me about one of the employees there who he hates to deal with.
Can you notice something? We had two very different experiences right after each other at two competing grocery stores. The one at Whole Foods was positive and exciting while the one at Target was dreadful.
What’s the significance of having good employees?
Zach told me about his first positive interaction with John at Whole Foods, which we both told others about, and then I had one and was able to tell him about as well as other people. Look at me right now, I’m telling you about John at Whole Foods—that’s what I call a positive experience. If your business or organization has good employees, ones worth talking about, then you will surely have returning customers.
“Whole Foods is so expensive though!” I honestly don’t even care at this point, not because I’m loaded with cash, instead I’d rather shop somewhere I know I’ll be welcomed and have a pleasant experience than somewhere I’ll be annoyed and on edge. If all you care about is money and the cost of what you’re buying then you’re more likely to be living a stressful, unsatisfying, and shorter life.
Why should you and your employees be caring and nice?
I’ll backdrop this with some information from the Harvard Business Review’s article, “The Price of Incivility.” Over the past 14 years, 98% of workers report to had experienced uncivil behavior from those in management positions. The way in which employees are treated directly affects worker morale, efficiency, and effectiveness, which can then affect the experience of customers. Among workers, these are some tangible costs of incivility:
- 48% intentionally decreased their work effort.
- 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work.
- 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work.
- 80% lost work time worrying about the incident.
- 63% lost work time avoiding the offender.
- 66% said that their performance declined.
- 78% said that their commitment to the organization declined.
- 12% said that they left their job because of the uncivil treatment.
- 25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers.
If employees are intentionally working less, spending time avoiding work, stressed out, and/or less committed to their work, then that is surely going to show. Customers who interact with employees that aren’t invested in their job or if they can sense any bit of rudeness are more apt to walk out.
How do you hire employees that care?
Following my two radically different experiences at Whole Foods and Target, and after reading that article from the Harvard Business Review, I started to think—how do you hire employees that care? How do you know if you’re making the right hire? How do you ensure that employees are enthusiastic and invested in customers?
“When you’re fully self-expressed, fully demonstrating your values and your views, you’ll naturally attract and draw to yourself those you’re best suited to work with, and you’ll push away those you’re not meant to work with.” — Michael Port
As someone in management or even as an employee, you must embody the values of the organization. It’s incredibly crucial to epitomize the ideal employee yourself, and by doing so you will inspire and attract those who are capable of being that. Here’s another quote from Michael Port, author of Book Yourself Solid, “You are your clients; they are an expression and an extension of you.” In this case, you are your employees.
Still, that doesn’t seem to be enough. There’s got to be more to hiring the right kind of people. Not only do those in management have to fully express their values, but the business as an entity must live and breathe those values. Putting your values on a website and sincerely living those values drastically vary, the former means nothing while the latter means everything—that’s what people actually experience.
Let’s consider my experiences at Whole Foods and Target, and let’s take a look at some of the values they list on their website. Whole Foods writes:
“We go to extraordinary lengths to satisfy, delight and nourish our customers. We want to meet or exceed their expectations on every shopping trip. We know that by doing so we turn customers into advocates for our business. Advocates do more than shop with us, they talk about Whole Foods Market to their friends and others. We want to serve our customers competently, efficiently, knowledgeably and with flair.”
My actual reaction from reading that was, “Holy shit, I’m doing this right now.” They hit it dead on. Target is a bit vaguer when it comes to describing their customer service in which they write:
“In stores or online, we work hard to ensure your Target shopping trip is always enjoyable and exciting. How do we do it? Friendly service from team members ready to assist with your list, fully stocked shelves and a speedy checkout process—and that’s just the start.”
When I read this, all I can think about is how I’ve never been assisted with my list, fully stocked shelves aren’t a guarantee, and a speedy checkout process is a lie. If this kind of customer service was truly at the forefront of their business, then they would be going to the ends of the Earth to make it happen.
What can you take away from this?
- John at Whole Foods created a memorable experience worth sharing.
- That experience is the result of having a value oriented organization.
- Hiring employees that care starts with managers and bosses that care.
- When you and your employees care, great experiences are made.
- People should be talking about your business. Like this.
I will continue telling people of John and my experience at Whole Foods, and I will continue shopping and having meetings there. When I’m able to interact with employees that I can tell care and are invested in their job, then I trust not only that individual store but also the name attached to it. If you’re wanting to know how to hire the right people then start with figuring out how you can create a memorable experience. Live, breathe, and showcase the values you want your business to be known for.