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Earlier today I stopped by my local Safeway supermarket. I was picking up the necessary ingredients to make a pretty unoriginal meal: spaghetti and meat sauce. Deciding it might be interesting to surprise my family with a unique twist on a common meal—in our household anyway—I looked at the seasoning packets in the baking aisle to see if they had one for Italian meatballs.

I wasn’t finding exactly what I was looking for and must have telegraphed this with my body language because, about the time I was going to give up and settle for boring old meat sauce, an employee named Kristi approached me to see if I needed help. I explained what I was looking for and together we scanned the selection one more time without finding exactly what I needed.

Kristi then said, “I’m sorry we don’t have what you’re looking for. I have my own recipe for Italian meatballs in my head.” I asked, “Can you tell me some of the basic ingredients? Then I’ll try to make it myself at home.”

She then provided me with a list of ingredients and corresponding quantities from her personal recipe! I was delighted and thanked her for taking the extra time to help me.

But it doesn’t end there. About five minutes later, Kristi approached me in another part of the store saying, “I almost forgot…you’ll also need 3 teaspoons of Parmesan cheese.”

I was so impressed with her thoughtfulness and the genuine interest she expressed in my desire to serve Italian meatballs to my family for dinner. Not only did she stop what she was doing in the baking aisle to assist me and—ultimately—share her personal recipe, she also had the thoughtfulness to reflect on the recipe to make sure she hadn’t left anything out. And when she realized she had, took the initiative to find me in the store and share the missing ingredient!

While memorable customer service may not always translate immediately to increased sales, it did in this case. Remember, I was prepared to settle for boring old meat sauce (which I already had at home) after not finding what I was looking for on the shelf. In fact, it turns out that I already had most of the ingredients for Kristi’s recipe at home. But there were two items, saltine crackers and Parmesan cheese, that I didn’t have. Those items totaled $7.

Just imagine the potential of a supermarket staffed by engaged employees like Kristi.  What if every customer who telegraphed a need through his or body language as I did was approached rather than ignored? Maybe a percentage of these customers could be directed to another part of the store where the product they’re hoping to find is stocked? Or perhaps, assuming the store does not carry exactly what they’re looking for, some number of customers could be induced to try an alternative like I was?

Can you begin to see the potential?

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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