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Hy-Vee Cites Customer Experience Strategies

For years we've heard that retailers need to practice succession planning, and the term frequently refers to passing along a family-owned company to the next generation. However, there's another type of succession planning that's no less urgent, but not discussed as frequently, at least in public forums. This version describes how companies can avoid being caught off guard by planning smooth transitions

DALLAS — Hy-Vee's longtime culture of focusing on the customer has produced a series of strategies that help the retailer succeed, said Mitch Streit, store director of Hy-Vee's 75,000-square-foot unit in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

At the center of this approach is “making sure customers walk out of the store with an emotion that's more positive than when they entered,” he said during a session at FMI Future Connect 2011 here.

Among strategies he outlined:

  • • Discussing customer experience at every company meeting.

  • • Creating an “emotional experience” in the store.

  • • Putting customer experience ahead of everything else, including sales.

  • • Inspiring workers to provide great customer experiences.

“If we run out of an item, it's fine to offer customers a rain check,” he said. “But what about offering them something they can use right now? Let's say you run out of their requested brand of flour. Offer them your store-brand flour for free. We allow employees to make decisions like that on their own to take care of customers. We empower our front-line people.”

Another speaker, David Skogen, chairman, Festival Foods, said customer experience is a leadership issue.

“It's about leadership, not management,” he said.

Festival's customer strategies include basic tasks such as asking shoppers if they found everything they need, and taking them directly to items they are looking for.

Festival celebrates exceptional service by employees, and brings “culture keepers” into the process by holding periodic meetings to exchange information and ideas with hourly employees who have 10 years of service or more.