How My Small-Town Grocer Made Customer Service Magic

How My Small-Town Grocer Made Customer Service Magic

Crafting magical moments for customers and consistently delivering them is tough to do.

But, thankfully, we all have stories and precious memories of folks who worked hard to do it well.

Growing up in my tiny hometown of Marshville, NC in the 60’s, one store stands out.  You know the kind of place I’m talking about. Where the moment you step inside, the store’s magical touchpoints consistently delight you.

For me, Collins Brothers Market was that kind of place. Led by grocer, Harold Collins, its big Candy Wall (more about that later) meat counter, produce section etc. were well stocked and their black-and-white linoleum floors were always squeaky clean. Yes, the store gave us the brands we needed, but it was the store’s personable service and magical moments that kept us coming back.

Here are some details:

-Conveniently situated at the intersection of Highway 74 and Main Street, customers from every direction could pull in, park their cars, do their shopping, and be on their way.

-On weekends and holidays my high school class mate, Gil Collins, the owners’ nephew, and a few other young men, would carry groceries to shoppers’ cars. To this day, Gil has one of the biggest smiles on the planet.

-You’d often spy a friendly staffer, for example, helping a familiar face find everything she needed to make Sunday Supper. (This was especially important when their preacher was their special guest.)

-Near the back of the store, you’d find the butcher, in friendly banter as he carefully wrapped up hamburger for a townie’s Friday night cook-out. While Marshville was in a dry county, the rumor mill had it those get-togethers could turn into real beer-guzzlers! (But don’t quote me on that.)

-Mr. Collins, in his white apron tied at the front, was always close by the front door to welcome customers by name. His staff carefully reordered inventory based on what was selling and, of course, customer requests.

-Before I got my driver’s license, my mom (who had summers off from teaching) would sometimes ask me to ride with her in our Chevy to Collins Market. I’d run inside to retrieve the missing ingredient she needed to complete one of our family’s summer lunches (i.e. pork chops, field peas, fried okra, sweet tea.) We had a charge account, and I never missed the opportunity to score a favorite candy from the store’s floor-to-ceiling “Candy Wall” directly across from the cash registers.

Making Your Own Magical Moments

Fast forward three decades. We are in the Digital Age where building magical moments require different solutions. To help you problem solve, ponder these tough but necessary questions:

-What magical moments are you creating for your customers that differentiates you from your competitors?

-When asked, can your buyers describe the moments and articulate your differences?

-Can your staffers articulate them? Your supply partners?

-What customer moments most trigger buyers to write favorable Yelp reviews?

-What magical moments have you experienced elsewhere? How can you apply that idea to your business? Contributor

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