Harris Teeter store in Apex, NC. Public Domain.

Harris Teeter schools Walmart in Customer Service

E. Forrest Christian Managing 1 Comment

I used to think Walmart was the king of retail operations. Smaller operations like Harris Teeter could learn a lot about how to do things from them.

But after experiencing customer service in both recently, I know that Harris Teeter could take Walmart to school on basic customer service and loyalty.

Harris Teeter, for those not in North Carolina, is an upscale-ish grocery store that has a reputation for being more expensive but better (cleaner, better run, more polite). It’s reputation is so great that when Walmart wanted to run an ad campaign where they invited people who shopped at other grocery stores to compare prices at Walmart, they used Harris Teeter.

(I don’t actually find this true over time, because HT has some impossible sales when you shop their regularly.)

I’ve always had great experiences there. It’s like they hire on customer happiness or something. It’s always clean, everyone is always neat and polite.

But my mom had a different experience leading to me testing out Harris Teeter’s customer service.

My mother was visiting us from up north. She’s in her 70s and about 5 ft (153cm). She wanted to do some grocery shopping as an unasked favor to us.

She felt she had a bad experience at the deli counter. So much so that she talked about it on and on at dinner.

So I picked up the phone and called the local Harris Teeter where she worked. I politely asked for a manager and the person who answered the phone immediately when to get her.

No hassles. No questions. Just action.

I told the manager on duty, Carla, about my mom’s experience and that she had ended up being given meat at the deli that wasn’t sliced right. I also told her that I loved my local Harris Teeter (it’s so clean and friendly it’s like going to Disneyworld) and I wondered if I could replace the meat.

Carla apologized, more than once, and quickly told me to come back and she would get me the meat my mom wanted. And she would refund my mom’s money for her trouble.

When I got there, Carla takes me over to the deli counter herself and asks the one of the young guys cleaning up (they were going to shut down soon) if he could get me what my mom wanted.

He not only gets me the thick cut that Mom likes but he also apologized for her having a bad experience even though he wasn’t on duty when she was there.

I’m pretty sure that had I simply approached the deli counter with my bag of meat that he could have replaced it for me. The managers seem to trust their staff to make decisions for customer service.

Frankly I was so happy at this point I would have taken my meat and headed home.

But Carla took my mom’s receipt and proceeded to give me money “because of all your trouble.”

“I want you mother to love our store as much as we do,” she told me.

I didn’t look at it until I was at my car. It was a double refund.

Look, it’s not the money that has made me so ecstatic about Harris Teeter. It’s the customer service provided. I’ve tried returning clearly mismpackaged products at Best Buy and had the royal runaround. I’ve been to grocery stores where finding a manager was nigh impossible and you never got put through unless you had been thoroughly interrogated.

Harris Teeter shows us how customer service is done.

Walmart, you’ve been schooled.

Image credit: Harris Teeter in Apex, North Carolina (not mine in Mooresville). Public domain via Wikimedia.

About the Author

Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps managers and experts find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants. Forrest lives and works plain view of North Carolina's Mount Baker.  [contact]

Comments 1

  1. The blog post itself is a great example of how delivering a good client experience pays-off. Clients who are impressed will always spread the word in genuine way.
    Also a good example of how an organisation can expect good things when it allows, and create the conditions, for its employees to exercise their judgment. At all levels.
    Great post!

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