Why Customer Feedback is MORE Critical when things are Going Good

There’s a new Fry’s Food store by my house. It’s not actually new, just recently remodeled. The store has a great feel to it and I like shopping there. Like a lot of grocers, this store has a Starbucks in it. The Baristas there are very nice, but so un-Barista like. I’ve spent a lot of time (that’s an understatement) in Starbucks. There is a definite culture formed amongst the Baristas. To be fair, many of the “in store” Starbucks Barista’s don’t get it.

The two guys at the Fry’s yesterday didn’t get it.


The one guy making the drinks gave women, who believe men can’t multi-task, tons of ammo. I’ve never seen anyone so fascinated with the process of steaming milk. I wanted to tell him, milk steams whether we watch it or not, but…

The other guy was trying to figure out the register. Let’s just not go there. 

Up to this point, this is nothing but a minor irritation bred into me as an impatient American who hates to wait. But, the story takes an unfortunate turn right here…

As I’m walking out the door with two black teas, I see two Fry’s employees standing at the exit, thanking people for coming in. They looked like managers—it was the “standing and watching” that gave it that managerial feel.

Dave: Hey could I give you some feedback (said with a smile so as not to appear to be “one of those” customers)

Store guy at the door: (Stares at Dave and looks as if he hasn’t been trained to say anything beyond, “have a nice day.”)

Dave: The guys at the Starbucks are really nice, but unbelievably slow.

Store lady at the door: They’re new

Dave: Ya, I get that. Maybe you could put someone who’s not new with them to help them out.

Store lady at the door: Everyone’s new (said to shut me up)

Dave: You’re kidding. I give you feedback, and that’s your answer.

Store lady at the door: Bye

Dave: (thinks about the Wal-Mart down the street with better prices)

Now you might be thinking, “O come on Dave, what’s the big deal?” Well in the scope of the cosmos, you’re right; this is not a big deal. But, in the scope of customer service at the Fry’s Food Store in Oro Valley, Arizona, it’s not good.

Ask Dell, why they lost their number one market share to HP—who wasn’t exactly at the top of their game when they overtook Dell—and in part you’ll hear the ideas, customer care and listening to meaningful customer feedback.

There’s an insidious temptation that overtakes employees when they’re part of a store or company that is doing well: they don’t listen to feedback because they think the store is immune to trouble. The thinking goes like this, “This is one person who is complaining about nothing. What possibly could matter about that?”
But, most feedback (and I’m not talking about the annoying complaining some people seem born to spread) comes out of something the customer sees (about the environment, people and process) that the employees and mangers don’t see. To ignore the “customer view” is to make two mistakes: 1) annoy good customers, and 2) leave broken systems broken. Both can lead to real trouble…ala Dell is now fighting to get back to the coveted number one space.

I wish the guys at the Fry’s Starbucks the best. Since there’s a “real” Starbucks just across the street, should I just go there instead?

2009-01-05T14:55:46-04:00

4 Comments

  1. Rev. Karen Tudor January 5, 2009 at 10:23 pm - Reply

    Gee, I have totally been on both sides of that conversation you had with the "managers" at the door! They were clearly just there to receive the "good"news, not the news that tells them that things aren’t what they should be or could be. Having been in management in health care for about 10 years before ministry, I totally know the defensive mentality that has very reasonable explanations for why things are the way they are without snapping to the larger idea that perhaps some extra creativity or effort may be needed here. These managers gave you the "explanation" without grasping that you were giving them a solution to a problem they didn’t think mattered. But missed the notion that clearly it DID matter — to a customer, who can just go across the street . Or try back in a few weeks, when the "new" barristas are seasoned. Clearly it’s all the same to them!

  2. Dave Fleming January 6, 2009 at 12:07 am - Reply

    Karen,

    The "explanation" … I like that. I wonder how many times the "explanation has kept a company or organization from some sort of new innovation.

  3. KC January 8, 2009 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    Hi Dave! It’s Kelly from GTL. Yes, go to the Starbucks across the street. The coffee is much better 🙂

  4. Dave Fleming January 9, 2009 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    I also noticed a Starbucks at the Safeway the other direction…hmmm

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