Dear Food Lion,

Dear Food Lion,

I thought you would like to hear a short story about customer service and your store. I almost never shop at your stores. I prefer Whole Foods and Harris Teeter but occasionally I do go into the store to pick up a few random things.

I had 5 items that I needed and stood in line as an inexperienced cashier couldn't get the register to work properly. It was frustrating but I understand that he was new or perhaps there was a glitch. No problem.

I moved to a different line that was empty and when I put my things on the conveyor, the young woman said…

 “sorry I am closed”

There was no sign she was closing and she didn't even look at me. She just walked away so she could take her break. These words, sorry I am closed have been ringing in my ears all day as I thought what a missed opportunity for you and your company. You have invested money to get me to occasionally shop in the store and now because of a lack of proper training, I am in essence ignored. Sorry, I am closed. 

I don’t blame this young woman for not taking care of the human being in front of her although there wasn't an ounce of compassion or even reasonable civility.  She wasn't trained to make the judgment that her break comes second to a waiting customer. 

I you train your employees to care enough to instill this idea in your training program? Maybe you train your employees and something happened because the training wasn't reinforced or was ineffective. In any case, I'm left with a bad experience sharing my disappointing experience on my blog. I write about marketing and customer service is an important topic to my readers. 

During the same visit to your store I had a second similar experience. As I was searching the aisle for a few things, I asked an employee who was putting things away
on a shelf and straightening up the boxes, where Q-Tips were kept in the store. She said they were on the next aisle near the shampoo. 

I told her I had looked there and she said I should just check again. I think the right action, if she was well-trained would have been to walk me to the place where they are located. That is my experience at Harris Teeter or Whole Foods where I shop most often. They stop what they are doing, and help the human being in front of them. 

I am not interested in getting anyone in trouble. My main purpose in writing this letter to you is to suggest that you have fixed up your stores with nice new shelves, you have improved your advertising on T.V. and your in store produce selection appear better than the last time I was in the store.

However, your poor and ineffective training program was a sharp contrast to my experience earlier that day when I had an almost similar experience in Bed, Bath and Beyond. At that store, their cashier did exactly the opposite of what happened at your store. This woman said to me- and this is an exact quote:

“I would be happy to help you and I’ll close my register for my break when the line goes down”

Missed Opportunity
I really enjoy the engagement I get at Whole Foods and at Harris Teeter as the cashier treat me like a human being. It isn't perfect but I don't recall an experience at either store that made me feel so unimportant and unwanted. 

They talk to me, they look at me and they seem to put me (as a customer) ahead of themselves (as an employee). It appears they get training to look at customers, to talk to us and to treat us like they would treat a friend. 

Thank you for listening to my story. I am not looking for anything from you except to share what happened and to suggest that the best marketing can be training. In this highly competitive day, customer service is being seen as a powerful marketing tool to help keep customers loyal.  Maybe there is a marketing lesson in this for you. 

By the way, sorry I am not open to the idea of Food Lion being my regular store. I have too many choices and prefer the treatment I get elsewhere. 

I know it is difficult to train a lion, but perhaps you need to increase your investment in employee development. Personally I think its a much better investment than advertising. 


Jeffrey Slater

Notes: My blog is designed for those trying to unravel some of the mysteries of marketing. If you enjoy my writing, won't you share my posts with your marketing friends? Thanks. 

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