Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Importance of Customer Service

In this day and age, with every one's budgets stretched, good customer service is extremely important. After all, I am choosing to spend my money with your business. Poor customer service is one of the quickest ways to lose my business. This is true whether you are an on-line store, a restaurant, a service provider or a store.

So often times, all you hear about are people's bad experiences. So, today, I have decided to share about a local company that I feel provides great customer service and a pleasant shopping experience.

We have a local grocery chain that exemplifies great customer service and provides a pleasant shopping experience. The store is Buehler's Fresh Foods. What makes them great are all the little things that they do and offer to their consumers.

They are a very kid friendly store.

They offer a Kid's Club Snack, which provides each child with their own key card (they are a generic bar code, not tied to your child) which they use to get a free snack item each visit. The item varies from month to month, but in the past has included Pringle's Sticks, a clementine, String Cheese, Uncrustables sandwich, drinking yogurt, bomb pops, and cookies from the bakery. My son loves this! Each visit he makes sure to carry in both his and his sister's key card - keys as he calls them. Throughout the store, he anxiously awaits finding out what his "Item" (as he calls it) will be. It makes shopping with kids that much easier.

They also offer Kidz Park, where you can drop off your kids to play while you shop. This is free, safe childcare for your shopping visit. It is limited to potty trained children 3 to 9.

They convey your groceries out to a covered pick up zone, where a store employee loads your groceries into your car. This helps them by saving wear and tear on the carts and helps a parent, because all you have to worry about is getting your kids out and into the car, not messing with a cart, loading groceries and taking the cart to the closest corral.

Their on-site restaurant offers complimentary jars of baby food with your order. This is such a nice touch and really a low cost program as well.

They have diapers available at customer service. This is not something that I have seen advertised, but we were out and about one day and when I went to change my daughter's diaper, I discovered that I didn't have any diapers in my diaper bag. Not wanting to buy a larger pack at a premium cost (we normally buy diapers at a warehouse club) and without coupon, I inquired at customer service if they sold sample or travel packs of diapers. The customer service associate asked me if I needed it to change my daughter. When I answered yes, she asked what size and handed me a diaper. Maybe this was from a damaged pack, maybe they absorb the cost of a pack of diapers from time to time, either way, what a perk!

At Halloween, they offer in store trick or treating for your costumed child. As you move through the store, doing your shopping, your child receives a multitude of treats. A free meal certificate for the restaurant, a piece of fruit, a cookie, some candy, a balloon. Again, nothing major, but such a nice touch.

Their deli will provide you with a slice of cheese or bologna for your child when you purchase something from the deli counter.

They sell reusable grocery bags, both regular and insulated for your dairy/frozen items. Their regular bags, include a stiff plastic piece that sits in the bottom of the bag to provide support. This support piece and the insulated bags are not something I have seen at other stores. Unlike the other stores where I shop, they provide a discount to you on each subsequent visit for every reusable bag that you use. The discount is only 5cents per bag, but over time it adds up and this means that eventually you will more than recoup your original investment. This makes me more likely to remember to bring them into the store with me or to run back out to the car for them. This is great for the environment.

They offer a reward program on their Loyalty Card. It's not great, you have to spend $500 to get a $10 gift card; but it is better than no reward program at all.

I will tell you that Buehler's is not the cheapest store in town, but because of the excellent service and pleasant experience that they provide, it is where I prefer to do my weekly shopping for all of my fresh items - produce, dairy, deli, bread and meat. I will also pick up other canned/boxed necessary items when there. Although, this is somewhat limited since I generally am stockpiling common items when stores have them on sale.

Do you have a business or store that provides excellent customer service? Leave a comment to share your positive experience.