business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story yesterday about how Trader Joe's uses its people to really stand apart from the competition, which led one MNB reader to write:

I spent 33 years in sales in the CPG's business. Been in more retail stores then I want to remember. None other then Trader Joe's have the genuine friendly helpful people representing them. They are truly unique!  I don't know how they find their employees, but, I love shopping in Trader Joe's. Their cashiers are the nicest peopleI have ever had the pleasure of interacting with!  Their private label products are excellent, and prices are very fair!  I actually enjoy shopping when I shop at Trader Joe's!  Can't say that for any other stores!! The retail industry can learn much from Trader Joe's.

Another MNB user wrote:

The cashiers at the chain I do most of my grocery shopping with, also ask me if I found everything I was looking for.  Unfortunately in this case, it’s a shallow gesture.  When I tell them "NO", they struggle with how to respond.  TJ's actually backs this simple statement up but taking it to the next level and exceeding your expectations.  Wish there was a TJ's closer to me so I could shop there regularly.

From another reader:

Actually, Wegmans staff ask if you found everything at their checkouts.  My only disappointment has been, when there was something I couldn't  find, there doesn't  seem to be any action - they don't  write it down, or tell anyone, at least while I am there.  Strikes me as kind of un-genuine, but thanks for asking.  I think this needs some work on management's part.

On the subject of Apple deciding that it needs to change/improve the Genius Bar experience in its Apple Stores, MNB user Katy Gorman wrote:

I think this idea is, pun intended, GENIUS. Other retailers with this type of service model should take notice – especially wireless companies such as Verizon, who does “concierge”, but poorly. This is coming from a customer of both Apple and Verizon who had a very, VERY poor experience obtaining my iPhone 6 this past fall from Verizon.

The phone was “DOA” (broken before I even opened the box), and when I took it to a  Verizon store, not only did I have to wait for upwards of 90 minutes for a solution (or lack thereof) AND they tried to sell me other products WHILE I waited for them to figure out how they could get out of taking any responsibility for the issue, in the end all they would tell me was to take it to the Apple store and have THEM help me. Leaving the store in a white hot rage, the very next day I did as the Verizon rep suggested, and not only did the Apple team member fix my issue immediately with no questions asked, the service experience was a dream come true –  he was kind, understanding, KNOWLEDGABLE. I will NEVER buy another new phone through Verizon, ever ever ever. I cannot emphasize this emphatically enough. I will only go to the Apple store from now on to purchase my iPhone.

I was so enthralled with my experience at Apple I almost walked out with a new laptop, as well. (Almost.) Furthermore, when/if Apple decides they are going into the cellular service business, I will be the first to pay my early termination fee at Verizon and jump on board. Service excellence is key, and Apple knows how to do it; Verizon most certainly does NOT.
Just my $0.02!

I wrote yesterday that it is important for retailers to differentiate between best customers and everybody else ... that best and most profitable customers deserve better service than others.

Which prompted one MNB user to write:

But that's so politically-incorrect.  Is "differentiate" just a euphemism for "discriminate"?  I thought there were no "best ones."  Everybody is exactly the same.

There's a big difference, in my view, between differentiating and discriminating. And it has nothing to do with political correctness.

In fact, I think that retailers that do not track sales, identify best customers and then cater to them, are making an enormous mistake and giving away a potentially huge advantage. So much so that retailers ought to be figuring out how to create express lanes for gold customers - just like the airlines - rather than offering express lanes to people who buy the least amount of product.
KC's View: