business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Content Guy’s Note: Below is a commentary on the same subject as the video piece, but it isn’t word-for-word the same. You can look at both, or is up to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy...

We talk and write a lot here on MNB about the importance of the front lines in any business, especially retailing. So I thought I would take a moment to frame for you a very specific example of something that happened to me this week...

I was in the Darien, Connecticut, Trader Joe’s picking up some things so I could make lasagna, and, as always, I brought my own cloth bag with me. I did my shopping, and went to the checkout, where a nice man named Paulo quickly scanned and bagged my items.

As he was doing so, he handed me a small ticket - Trader Joe’s has a program where everyone who brings in their own bags gets to fill out a ticket, and they do a drawing at the end of the month, with the winner getting a Trader Joe’s gift card. I was happy to fill it out, but because I also mentioned to him that I was impressed because it had been months since anyone at the store had offered me a ticket, and I always bring in my bags.

Paulo seemed shocked by this - but then he did something about it. He handed me several additional tickets to fill out, saying that I deserved better treatment than I’d been getting. Now, I told him that it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted. “I want you to have a good shopping experience,” he said. Yes. Those exact words...

I was actually taken aback for a moment, and ultimately very impressed. Not only was Paulo engaging with me, but he was taking the initiative and, when you think about it, taking ownership of my shopping experience. That’s huge.

To some extent, this isn’t a complete surprise. Trader Joe’s always scores pretty high on the “friendly employees” scale. But the real lesson is how important the front line employee is, and how retailers need to pay more attention to this critical part of the business. We talk a lot about supply chain efficiencies and things like that, but the most important chain - the one that links the shopper to the store - has as its most important links the people who work there, who personify what the experience is supposed to be.

Paulo got it right, and Trader Joe’s got it right by hiring Paulo. Or by hiring whoever it was that hired Paulo.

This is the standard by which all retailers should be measured, regardless of format or cost structure.

At least, that’s what I think. And, as always, I want to know what you think.

KC's View: