The customer centric grocery store

As I begin to write this I am standing in an enormous lineup at a Sobey’s grocery store in Parry Sound, Ontario. Parry Sound is a small town of 6500 about three hours north of Toronto. This line is composed largely of cottagers stocking up for the long weekend.

I’ve been thinking a lot about customer centricity lately and this store is giving a great example.

The line is so long I almost packed it in and left; but, like everyone else here, I have little choice but to suck it up and wait. I saw pretty quickly, though, that this store knew it’s customers. They knew that on the Friday of a long weekend their store would be flooded by vacationers and that they would be faced with a lot of grumpy customers if they couldn’t handle the rush.

How do you manage an onslaught of customers when you can’t set up extra tills? Here’s what they did:

Instead of having us pick a register and line up, we all got into one, long line stretching the length of the store. One of their employees took on the role of traffic director. As we got to the front of the big line, he directed us to smaller lines at one of the registers, always watching for line hoppers who may spark a riot. While waiting in line another employee came by and handed out free water bottles. I was that thirsty, but I was wowed by the extra effort and gladly accepted it. How could I get angry when they were so clearly going the extra mile?

And everyone was REALLY friendly. The traffic director, the water girl and even the cashier, who was smiling and joking with us all as she rang us in.

My hat goes off to the manager of this store. He clearly knows his customers and takes it upon himself to adjust his normal business practices according to their changing needs. He gets customer centricity.

In fact, I got through the line so quickly I had to finish this post at the cottage.

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