I am a Culture Addict. Even at the Grocery Store.

11-19-2014 9-43-28 AMHow often do you smile upon the thought of going to the grocery store? How often do you feel better leaving the store than you did going in? Until recently, I could have counted on one hand the number of times I had experienced this.

Enter Sprouts.

I happened to be dropping my son off for a program across town so decided to check out Sprouts, which was very nearby. I had never been in. I guess it was my lucky day.

I am not a secret shopper.

I am not getting paid to promote their stores.

I am a self-diagnosed Culture addict, and I’m inspired to share this with every CEO, Founder, Senior Executive, HR Leader and Manager I can. (Sharing is caring, after all.)

Happy Employees = Happy Customers

I’m a skeptic. Actually, I like to say that I’m sufficiently jaded. I’ve seen too many mission, vision and values statements that hang on walls in hallways and conference rooms that have no effect on actual policies and behaviors.

So, when I first saw the Core Values statement at Sprouts, I pretty much ignored it. I went about shopping, checking expiration dates on packages, scrutinizing the selection, and squeezing the produce. (Yes, I’m picky.)

There was someone already being helped at the deli counter. As I waited, not once, but twice, the deli associate made eye contact with me and smiled. Huh. I wasn’t being ignored. I liked that. It felt good.

I didn’t see what I was looking for in the produce area. A very friendly team-member not only helped me (within seconds of my looking confused) but also gave me a tip on how to re-invigorate a root vegetable if it seemed wilted after sitting in my fridge too long. Huh. Good to know. Thanks.

Upon check-out the cashier was so nice to me, asking if I had found everything I was looking for, and all that. Expected, I guess. But still, she seemed so genuine. When I told her that it was my first time in the store, she truly seemed delighted. I got a big welcome, and she went out of her way to offer tips for future trips. I felt like I was getting insider information about deals and coupons. Huh. Nice.

Maybe there is something to that core values statement.

I decided to test it out.

Although I had to drive past three other grocery stores to get there, I went back to Sprouts on my next trip.

They didn’t have what I was hoping to find at the meat counter. The butcher told me exactly when he was going to place his next order, and when it would be delivered to the store. He suggested I call him directly the morning of said delivery. He told me he would prepare and he’ll hold my order, so I wouldn’t have to wait in line when I came to pick it up. Huh. Well, that made me feel special. Important, even. Exceptional customer service in a grocery store? Cool.

Even on my latest trip in I had two different managers, the cashier and another team member absolutely go above and beyond. And, not just for me. I watched. They just DO that. Huh. (Hat Tip to Dennis and Israel in Frisco, TX if you happen to read this!)

True. Their product selection is great, but that’s not the reason I keep going back.

So I stopped to take a closer look at those core values hanging on the wall.

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And, I stayed to talk with Dennis about hiring and training. They actually LIVE those values. They actually talk about them regularly. They actually USE them.

I decided to dig around on the website. I found great statements on their career page. I found the code of conduct and ethics, right there for every candidate to see. Before they apply. Before they interview. It’s a good career page. They walk the talk. And, it shows.

So, if you think you can’t influence your rate of happy customers, think again. If you think you have to be Zappos or Google to have happy employees, think again.

Your culture exists whether you pay attention to it or not. So, why not be intentional about it? It will be worth the effort. Just ask Sprouts.

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