Companies that customers love work hard not to lose their personality — not in their products, not in their service, not in anything they do. They become beloved because of how they connect with customers in their lives. They relate personally with customers. And the beloved company’s personality comes through during any interaction with a customer.
What gets between you and your customers? How do you stay connected?
Trader Joe’s wants to be your neighborhood store — a place where you are welcomed by people who want to have a personal relationship with you. The conversation at checkout is a critical moment of interaction. Initially Trader Joe’s resisted installing scanners as part of its checkout process. The hesitation came from concerns over the “pinging” noise as each item is scanned. The ever-changing and growing inventory mix finally pushed the company to concede to the technology in order to efficiently manage the business. But it wasn’t until they were absolutely sure the sound of the “ping” from the scanner didn’t interrupt the flow of conversation between cashier and customer.
Trader Joe’s also avoids the microphones that are often used by checkout folks to “ask for help in aisle 5.” Instead, there are bells at every checkout station. Rung for specific reasons, they represent Trader Joe’s version of Morse Code. The Trader Joe’s FAQs’ page explains: “Those blustery PA systems just didn’t feel right to us, so we came up with a simple system to communicate—island style. One bell lets our crew know when to open another register. Two bells mean there are additional questions that need to be answered at the checkout. Three bells call over a manager-type person.”
This almost obsessive attention to detail is critical to Trader Joe’s in order for them to deliver on the “TJ” experience. Trader Joe’s believes that the sales per square foot that they achieve — which yields revenues triple the square foot sales of a standard supermarket — is testament to the success of their obsession for combining product and customer service to deliver the Trader Joe’s experience. Customers flock to the stores. What moments of customer contact are most important for you to obsess about? Do you know?
Decide to Be Real Challenge: Make sure nothing comes between you and your customers.
Evaluate how real you are
- How would you rate your intent and ability to obsess about the moments of connection — the key interaction points with customers?
- How would your customers say you are doing? (Who is accountable for the moments of truth?)
- Do customers rave about the bond they feel with your company and your people?
- How do your decisions to create a human connection in these moments compare with this beloved company?
- Do your decisions earn you “beloved” status today?