The Joy Of Great Customer Service

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retrochick.JPGIvy says:

Watch out, world! Ivy’s back! I’m sure you’ve been wondering where I’ve been. Well, between dealing with several family emergency-type things, trying to pull myself out of the very serious depression I’d been in for over a year and a half, and starting a new project, I was completely harried and needed some time off. Heather was gracious enough to give me a month to get my act together and come back here rockin’. So, look out, world! I’m back.

My new project actually ties in with the subject du jour. What I’ve been thinking about lately is how I will go to a store- even if it’s out of the way, even if it’s (SLIGHTLY) more expensive- if it has fabulous customer service. This is why I shop at Costco over Sam’s Club, or have car insurance with Geico compared to some of the cut-rate agencies. Sure, it might not be cheaper, but the service is better, and that saves time and frustration, which is worth more than money.

Another example of where I choose one store over another is Publix vs. Kroger. Now, not everyone has Publix or Kroger, but I’m sure you know the grocery stores in your area. There’s usually one with slightly higher prices and better service, and one with slightly lower prices, but worse customer service. Here in the Nashville area, it’s Publix with the great service and Kroger with the lower prices. One time I went to Publix when it was raining- they actually had me pull my car up to the door and they loaded my car for me so I didn’t have to get out in the rain. Amazing.

Or, the difference between Home Depot and Lowes. Now, while Publix focuses on having great customer service, I don’t know that either of them truly focus on that. But in my area, Home Depot has amazing customer service. Every time I go in there and stare at things confusedly, there’s someone who is johnny-on-the-spot to tell me what I need to do and even give me tips on installing what I’ve bought. Lowe’s, on the other hand, has dismal customer service and I almost never go there, even though it’s closer to my house than Home Depot.

My new project is a company that focuses on customer service. It’s an auto repair shop in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. If you happen to live in that area, I highly recommend the shop, not just because I am blogging for them, but because I stand behind their honesty and great customer service. And so do they.

So, Home Eccers, tell me- will you go to stores that go out of their way to have great customer service, or is it all about price for you? How do we reconcile our desire for thrift with our other desire to be treated well and have our questions answered? What stores in your area are great about customer service, and which ones do you just hate?

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42 thoughts on “The Joy Of Great Customer Service”

  1. Welcome back, Ivy!

    When I lived in MSP, I would go out of my way to shop at the Walgreens on Vicksburg at Hwy 55 in Plymouth or the CVS in Andover if I was up on that side of town. Other Walgreens and other CVS stores didn’t have the same level of customer service that those two stores had. I could get items cheaper at Walmart, but it just wasn’t worth it to me.

    Here in Florida, I choose any Publix over any Winn-Dixie. And forget Rowe’s on Beach Blvd in Jax. You can’t even walk in that store without smelling rotten meat. I do shop at Walmart, but only for things that I won’t need customer service for.

  2. I switched back from Wal-mart to HEB because of the service. At Walmart, it is impossible to find help and they are usually understaffed. At Christmas, I hit both for random things I needed for baking. Walmart was a nightmare…half the lanes were closed, the shelves were bare, and there was no extra help. HEB was more busy, but they had every lane open and extra folks in the aisles to help direct traffic jams and find things, and they were constantly restocking. Sooooo worth it!!!

    • The Gettysburg Wal-Mart was understaffed when i worked there a few years ago, and now it’s even worse. You’re pretty much on your own to find anything you’re looking for.

  3. When I lived in MN I had choices like that and would shop where CS was great… I now live in a place that does not have those choice, the next closest city that would have the same choices is 1.5-2 hours away. Lately I have been shopping where I can get food for my daughter, it also has great CS. We have four grocery stores, but what they carry is very different.

    I stopped going to Starbucks out here because of there CS and it was not the employees, but the manager.

    I am a sucker for great CS!

  4. Yes I would. I’ve had a woman who worked at the deli section in the Belle Meade Kroger turn her back on me. I said, “Excuse me” and she looked at me and blatantly just turned around and kept talking to her coworker. I said “Excuse me” once again and waited. Nothing.

    I should have asked for her manager but I’m just never going back there again. Not to mention that Kroger’s particularly dismal.

    Sometimes if I’m not too pressed for time at the mall, I’ll go to the standalone Starbucks in Green Hills before going to the one in the mall. It’s not that those baristas/cashiers at the mall aren’t nice, they’re just not as friendly or competent as the other ones. Silly, I know but at this point in my life, I’d rather spend my money where I know it gets me more quality than convenience.

  5. I’m rather fond of the customer service at Publix but….I still only go there for certain items and sales.

    I do shop Target over Wal-Mart, though. Much better service.

  6. If a store (or car repair shop, or what-have-you) treats me badly, or rudely, I do not go back. Period. DH is like that too, and that’s why we no longer have a membership to Sam’s Club, which is too bad for them because we used to buy TONS of stuff there. They ticked him off on what was already a really bad day, and that was the last they saw of us.

    Fortunately for me, the grocery store that is the most convenient for me, Kennie’s in Gettysburg, has good prices AND good customer service. Overall, I find it a calming, pleasant experience to shop there. Someone told me that they shop Giant even though Kennies is closer for them (like a half mile away, as opposed to 12 miles for me) because they think Kennie’s prices are too high. Well, maybe we’re not buying the same stuff, but I find them comparable. Giant is a huge, massive, big, gigantic store, and they have selection like you wouldn’t believe. To me, it’s almost obscene, the amount of choices you have for everything. Everything. That is the primary reason that I can’t stand Giant. The secondary reason is that because the store is so massive, i do not find it calming and pleasant to shop there, because it takes FOR-EV-ER to find what I’m looking for. The customer service was okay, but the people at Kennie’s smile more, seem more friendly, much more helpful. They act like they actually enjoy working there. I’d much rather go to a store like that. Even if it cost more, which I don’t think it does.

    I also prefer to support local business, whenever possible. Kennie’s is a chain, but it’s only a few stores, not a gigantic impersonal corporation. When you buy locally, you support your community — profits stay in the area and support other local business. It’s good for the ‘hood!

    Sorry. I think I just ranted. A bit. I’m better now.

    BTW, It’s really good to see you back here, Ivy. I was hoping you were doing okay — I wish good things for you πŸ™‚

    • I also quit Sam’s (for Costco) because of their terrible service. It was the second time someone had been very rude to me about my membership level, and I just walked out and have never come back. Instead, I drive the 10 extra miles to Costco.

      Thanks for the good wishes! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  7. I am 100% loyal to Publix (where shopping is a pleasure!) thanks to their amazing customer service. Honestly, they may be a bit more expensive on some things, but on the whole they are very reasonable- especially when you can take advantage of their BOGO items. Luckily, it’s the closest store to my house- but I’ve been known tro drive past 3 or 4 other supermarkets to shop at a Publix in the past!

    For me, customer service is everything. I often say of Wal-Mart, “The amount of money you save is not equal to my copay at the emergency room when I have a stroke while waiting in line.” Or, you know, bail. The fact that they have 40 cash registers and 3 of them open each with a line 10 people deep is inexcusable. I’ll go to Target, thanks.

    Then there’s Chik Fil A. No one does polite better than Chik Fil A.

    I would rather spend 5% more on an item and enjoy my shopping experience than save buckets of cash and be irritated. Life is too short to hate doing the little everyday stuff.

        • In addition to the whole great CS, I love that they use peanut oil. I’m sorry for those folks who are allergic, but there is something so much better about deep frying in peanut oil. If I’m going to be having a calorie splurge, I like for it to taste GOOD.

          • I think I may have to go to Chick Fil A some time soon. What should I order? Pay no attention to calories; tell me what’s best.

          • Jax, it appears our comments only nest so far, so I’m replying to Heather and hoping you see it. Me, I like the #2 combo with a lemonade. It’s a grilled chicken sandwich and I add honey mustard to it. The lemonade is TO DIE FOR.

  8. I guess I’m in the minority here. If I get great prices AND great customer service, then I’ll make a point of going back to that store. But if it’s one over the other, then pricing almost always wins out.

  9. Welcome back! Honestly, for me, customer service doesn’t really factor into my choices because I don’t have a car and can’t be too choosy. I do enjoy when people seem to like their jobs, though, which is why I’ve never minded having to call T-Mobile for anything. They’re always a joy to talk to.

    • That’s funny, I was just talking to someone today about the fact that I didn’t know of any cell phone companies with good service. I’ll have to look more into T-Mobile when my contract with the Evil Empire (Sprint) is up!

      Thanks for the welcome back!

  10. kroger is now the only actual grocery store in town except for walmart or meijer (which aren’t actually true grocery stores),

    kroger is anything but low-priced they have the highest prices in town and i refuse to shop there unless it’s an emergency, so i shop Aldi — and the people there are always nice and the prices are always good, sometimes i’ll end up at save-a-lot (another discount grocery) – but the folks there are just collecting a pay check and act like it. the folks at walmart and meijer are sometimes nice sometimes just collecting a paycheck — depends

    i’ve never shopped publix, but i’ve heard about them, the grocery i like is one state over in PA. it’s Giant Eagle — love that place — great selection and price, and customer service — but i only get to shop there when i’m on vacation – lol

    • Isn’t it funny how stores vary from area to area? I think customer service has a lot to do with each individual store’s management. There are some companies where the upper management focuses on good customer service- like Publix- and then you have more generally consistent service.

  11. Absolutely – here in the corner of Queens, NY where we live there are two smallish groceries a block apart. Trade Fair is closer to the apartment, on the same side of the big street as we are. Met Food is a further block and involves crossing the avenue.

    However, I will go the extra bit to shop Met Foods. They are cordial, have approximately the same inventory and prices (the dairy is slightly cheaper, but we get organic milk and eggs and string cheese at Costco anyhow) But the checkers are so much nicer to me and everyone I know. They also don’t object too strenously when you bring a full basket of goods through the 10-items or less line because that’s the only checkout aisle that the dang stroller fits in!

  12. Interesting! In our area, Home Depot is staffed by people who don’t know anything about hardware, whereas Lowes has people who can actually help me out. I miss having an Ace Hardware around the corner.
    As far as groceries, it depends what I want. If it is prepackaged and standard, I go to Walmart or Sam’s Club. The Walmart closest to us is in a good neighborhood and it’s really nice. The next closest one is not in such a nice area of town, the parking lot is hard to get into, and the clientele is kind of rough. I stay away from that one.
    For produce, I go to Safeway and Whole Foods. Whole Foods has better potatoes and apples, but often nasty lettuce (pulled some out one time and there were bugs on it! That’s too organic for me!) . I make one big trip to the butcher about every other month, a wonderful outfit called Ranch Foods Direct. The meat is all vacuum packed, so I can toss it directly into the freezer if I want. And if I want something specific, I just call up and ask and they will get it for me. Not the greatest prices, but I haven’t had a bad cut of meat there yet. They are not organic, but they are RBST-free. They do mail order, BTW.

    • I think clientele has a whole lot to do with the general ambiance of any store. It’s not like the store can kick the rough customers out (unless they’re doing something clearly against rules) but at some places, I sure wish they would! Ha! πŸ™‚

  13. I have to admit, we shop at a butcher instead of in a grocery store. I think it’s just because a place that JUST sells meat seems like the better place to be, and they actually have people who know what they are doing, can cut things special and explain things to you!

    Also, I tend to prefer restaurants with better customer service over price. When your waitress ignores you for most of the meal, it’s not likely I am going to come back.

    We’ll also drive out of the way to go to the local ice cream places in the summer, they are just so much better, and the staff is way more friendly!

    • There’s a place here in the town I live in that is an otherwise really crappy grocery store, but has excellent meat and a good butcher on staff. I go there a lot for meat, especially since there seem to be so few who cut ribeyes and filets like I like them.

      But I recently found I can get a whole tenderloin much cheaper at Costco and Mr. Ivy is a meat cutting master, so I’ve been getting meat at Costco lately as well.

  14. It is all about the customer service for me, too! I shop ALL THE TIME. I shop for the family of seven and I shop for the custom diaper cakes. I go out to buy something almost every single day.

    I do not go to the WMart…..not unless I absolutely have to (some of the baby goodies I can only get there). I LOVE our local Babies R Us because they know me and my kiddos and treat us great and always offer up their services when I am buying tons of stuff (cases of diapers are big and bulky!)

    I choose the local Fry’s because they are way more customer service oriented and the store is full of pleasant employees that you just know are treated better than their counterparts at Wmart, too!

    Customer service is EVERYTHING. You treat people right and they will happily come back again and sprad the word. Treat them like a number and they will avoid you and only come in begrudgingly if they have to…letting everyone they see know how much they DON’T want to go.

    Every store I go into is because they have treated me well. If I have a bad experience the first time, I won’t return. Period.

  15. So, Home Eccers, tell me- will you go to stores that go out of their way to have great customer service, or is it all about price for you?

    Customer service and merchandise quality win over merely cheap every time. In the long run cheap isn’t worth it.

    Harris-Teeter here is not the cheapest store but they have the best sale prices and really good customer service. Their baggers know not to put the soft fruit under the canned goods and automatically put the cold stuff in my insulated bag without being told. They have a covered drive-up area where they’ll put your stuff in your car — raining or not.

    As to your comments on Lowes vs. Home Depot, I was shocked. My experience has always been just the opposite. In Home Depot, I can’t even find anyone who knows where particular merchandise is let alone anything about it.

      • i agree the smyrna home depot in tennesse is one of the best around when it comes to service. The associates are extremely helpfull and very friendly. not to mention you can find help when needed.

  16. I go to Albertson’s instead of WinCo because of the customer service. WinCo has screaming, running kids and I can’t take that. They also don’t give a crap if they are nice or not-much less helpful. Albertson’s always has great customer service, and friendly employees. My friends tell me, ‘but Albertson’s is more expensive-just go to WinCo to save money’. But, when I shop the sales at Albies, I save more than I ever could at WinCo. So, no thanks, I’ll stick to good CS, too! oh, and Welcome Back!

  17. Will usually go to the lower-priced place because money’s so tight, and only if it’s not inconvenient for me, but I PREFER the place with the good service. Out here in CA, I like to go to Vons, but I ususally go to Stater Bros. for groceries. However, I have all but given up Walmart because I feel like I enter a black hole when I go–too much time, too little to show for it. I almost always go to Target instead. Out here, I find that Home Depot is pretty lousy, but Lowe’s is much better. I think it usually comes down to how well managed a place is, and what that manager expects from his/her employees. Of course, the way they manage can be largely dictated by the corporation’s techniques too.

  18. I don’t notice a whole lot of customer service difference in the stores I shop (Kroger vs. Randalls vs. Rice Epicurian). I shopped HEB for the first time recently and they had awful CS, and the prices weren’t that much cheaper than Kroger or Randalls. The only difference I saw was that I don’t need a Krogers card to get their sale on Coke products, but they were the same price as Kroger’s sale (3 for $11). I rarely shop R.E. anymore because it isn’t convenient, and it’s more expensive, but when I lived near one I went there becasue the food quality was better than the Randalls (which was right next door). I think Home Depot has better CS in terms of finding someone who can help, but Lowe’s has better CS in terms of “i want to do this, what do I need.”

    Not entirely related, but I have yet to find a post office with good customer service. I stood in line for 40 minutes yesterday during lunch, along with about 6 other people, becasue there was only one person working the desk (during lunch hour you would think there would be more), she had laryngitis, and the person she was helping was hard of hearing so it took forever for that first customer to be assisted. I felt bad for the guy in front of me who was just buying stamps.

  19. My favorite local grocery store is Food Lion. They generally have the lowest prices. And the newest location, which 1.5 miles from my house, has wonderful customer service. I already know the meat manager very well because we chat every time he sees me. So I get both and I’m happy about that!

  20. I wanted to do a follow up because last night I had the BEST customer service I think I have ever had. We have had a nightmare going on with our minivan and plates due to the car being in two different states, garaged for a big hunk of time, etc. Arizona needed documents we couldn’t give them…..yada yada….we would up with a suspensded registration and no one at DMN/DOT could give us the same answer as anyone else.

    SO…we went to a third party auto registration place last night and my man Steve TOOK CARE OF US. He got it straightened out, laughing and smiling all the way. We were in and out in thirty minutes and it cost us less than we ever dreamed.

    Kudos to customer service. I will never go back to the DOT again if Steve’s company is able to do it for me.


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