Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grocery Store Clerk - WHO WE ARE

Every day that I go to work, I never really know what to expect.  The routine is basically simple enough; either I am working in one department or another.  As to the type of work, that I will perform, will depend on the department that I am working in.  Other then that, everything else is up in the air and it can change at any given moment.  Actually, you never really know what to expect or, for that matter, what you can count on. 

However, there is always one thing that I have found consistent - my fellow employees.  Behind the walls and automatic doors, there is a story of how employees carry on day after day.  It's about how they manage to make it work and how they look upon what they do for a living.  Together, they represent a united workforce and manage to maintain no matter what ills they may personally be facing.  They are each others shoulders through bad times, sounding boards for when things get just a little chaotic and the ears for the laughter that they share.  Through good times, and bad, they are there for each other.

This type of job defines a person's true character, because it is not the job one does as compared to the way a person does their job.  After almost ten years, I can say that it has been a long and somewhat fulfilling journey.  Even though there has been no financial gain, and no climb up the corporate ladder, it has been well worth the time in many respects.  But what is more important is that it has been an eye opener as to the assets that these people, that I work with, provide the workforce.

Talk at ya later!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Grocery Store Clerk - WEARING MANY HATS

There is one thing that holds true when working in a grocery store and that is, that each day can be a learning experience.  No matter what department you might work in, each day can provide one with new challenges, experiences and, dare I say it, frustrations.  And the reason for this is, you are dealing with the public.

Each person, in this line of employment, maintains many positions in one.  They are the public relations, the information center, knowledgeable experts of the products of which they handle, the enforcers of corporate policies and they straddle the line of legal responsibilities.  And the one department where this is most evident, is that of Frontlines.  This is where everything seems to come together.

To be a cashier, one must be knowledgeable in all facets of the operation and be able to handle any situations that may arise (with diplomacy), be able to multi task at any given moment, handle multiple personalities, maintain company policies, uphold legal responsibilities and be able to use good judgement. In other words, be able to handle whatever is thrown your way - no matter what.  To quote a former employer of mine, 'you gotta go with the flow.'  And for some reason, even with all of this responsibility, along with  the uncertainty of what to expect, one will clock in and begin their shift every day.

But the one thing that we, as customers, seem to forget is that should this employee/cashier not follow the policies and responsibilities then it could mean the end of their employment.  This is a lot to shoulder and sometimes puts an employee in the middle, between what a customer wants and what an employee is supposed to do. And yet, somehow these employees still manage to follow through and most generally they will handle whatever the complaint that follows.

Handling a complaint is difficult for any employee and no matter how hard one might try to 'brush it off'', it still manages to stay with you.  Over the years, I have witnessed many incidences where cashiers have had to take a verbal hit over sales, policies, legal procedures, lack of assistance, product selection and yes, even coupons.   Which just shows, that when we become customers we are more inclined to think that things should be done our way and  in the process we fail to realise that this person, waiting on us, has no control over procedures - only personality.

So when an incident occurs, as it does from time to time, I have often found, ironically, that it will generally be the customers that end up being my salvation.  For even though there will be one customer that will provide me with a situation that might be hurtful, or stressful, it will be ten other customers that will ultimately bring a smile to my face.  And in the long run, it is the customers that have taught me how to be a better consumer - either by how I may spend my money, or how I may treat others when I go shopping.  Either way, it is the customers that so many times make a positive impression on me.

Talk at ya later!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Grocery Store Clerk - MY NAME IS ........

Each of us that work in the grocery store, wear a name badge.  This makes it easier for a customer to identify the person who they may wish to either complain about or, in some cases, praise.  And on these badges may be listed the amount of years the associate has been with the company and/or what department they represent.  Unless, of course, one is a manager and then the badge becomes a little more descriptive.  Other then that, the badge that we wear just signifies who we are. But, to a customer this badge represents much more then name only.  It signifies that this person works for this particular establishment and that should there be a problem then this is the person to discuss the matter with;  or better yet, one that may be used for venting purposes.

The problems usually consist of selection, prices, sales or practices.  And even though a clerk has absolutely no control over these particular categories it will be they, not corporate, who will be more inclined to hear about these complaints.  There have been days that seem to be filled with complaints and when the day is done, I have to examine that name badge attached to my uniform to see exactly how it reads;  no, I don't see the initials CEO or the word Corporate anywhere.  In other words, we become the culprit for things that go wrong and decisions that are made.

But even though these occurrences arise, every now and then, I am glad that I wear this name badge.  When I am busy running between departments, trying to get an order out, assisting a customer or just trying to get caught up, hearing my name being called out and looking up to a smiling customer just kind of makes my day.  These people know me and go out of their way to speak to me when they come to shop.  That really does make me feel good.  And this very same thing happens for so many employees.  So last night it was not the least bit surprising when I heard a customer mention two of our employees, by name, and state that the reason that they shop at this store is because of these two guys and the customer service which they provide. That is kind of like an honor, if you stop to think about it, that a customer comes to shop, in this particular store, because of a couple of employees and how they represent the store.  HIGH FIVE to Alex and Ben!

And then of course there are the nice things that customers do for us.  As the evening was coming to a close one of our customers came in the store bearing gifts.  His wife had made a dessert and sent each of us a container filled with this scrumptious delight.  Just for the record, half of mine was already devoured by the time I got home.  What a wonderful surprise!

So in conclusion, I can say that I do not mind wearing my name badge for all to see.  Even though there are times that this badge becomes a means that provides customers an excuse to vent, this name badge has also provided an introduction to a lot of great people, that just happen to be customers.

Talk at ya later!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Grocery Store Clerk - HOT TOPIC

Customer Service, these two words say it all for a retailer.  It is what a business provides it's customers in exchange for their patronage.  And no matter how this service has been overhauled, over time, it is still a 'catch phrase,' that is commonly used by companies when trying to persuade customers to shop with them.  Now, more than ever, it seems that Customer Service has become a hot topic.

There are some columnists that are writing articles encouraging retailers to improve their Customer Service, if they wish to gain the patronage of the consumer market during these tough, economical times.  While, on the other hand, some surveys show that a large percentage of shoppers list prices and selection as the foremost reasons for choosing a retailer; Customer Service is just considered to be a nice touch.  And, still yet, a major university did a study as to the working conditions that employees, of large retailers, are faced with which might explain why good Customer Service is so unattainable.    No matter what the reason,  Customer Service is up for debate.

The meaning of Customer Service, will vary from customer to customer.  For some, it will be the attitudes of the employees, the experiences faced by the shoppers, while for others it will be what the retailers have to offer in selections and services.  It seems that everything involved with retail is defined as Customer Service.  And even though Customer Service has various definitions in the market place, there is only one group that will feel the affects should something go wrong - the employees that provide this service.  So, what is Customer Service?   Well today, I think I found the answer as to what true Customer Service is and how it is achieved.  To find the answer, I didn't have to go any further than the very store in which I work. 

Tonight I worked a few hours on Frontlines and everything went well.  There were no complaints, a lot of laughter and most everyone seemed to be looking forward to the weekend.    Then came this customer, a gentleman, and as I rang up his order he began to talk about grocery shopping, and this is what he had to say;

"I like shopping here, you people are so personable, you know what I mean?"

Now that, is Customer Service.  HIGH FIVE!

Talk at ya later!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Grocery Store Clerk - OWNERSHIP

Recently, I started browsing the web for any comments that have been posted, by consumers, that refer to our store and I found three.  I have to admit, I was rather disappointed that there were only three comments but then I had to take into consideration when these comments were posted; '05' and '08'.  Yep, I guess it's true that once something is put on the web it is there forever.  Anyways,  these comments were posted and, for me, it was a little nostalgic;

'Love going to _____________.  Prices are great and customer service is always there if help is needed.'
'I always leave feeling good.'
'Pharmacy - great service, echoes same service as the rest of the store.  Always consistent.'

Those were the good old days.   Back then, as an employee, you took ownership of the store.  If you were an employee of Bakery, Floral, Produce, etc., you had the opportunity to take your ideas and create something for the customers.  These creations would start out as a test to see if customers liked them, if they were a hit then these creations would become a staple of the department.  For instance, our Bakery Department became noted for the many different types of cakes that could be created;  in the Produce Department, one of the guys started packaging sliced peppers, onions, mushrooms for stir fry, or other recipes, and then there were the fruit salads; in Floral, creations of cut arrangements in vases and baskets, single roses in decorative boxes.  All of this sounds rather common and these are items that can be found in any grocery store, but at that time these items were not offered in the other company stores and were not available to order - they were simply the creations of the staff.  In this way the employees took on a form of ownership, they made it their own. 

These employees came up with ideas that served customers in a personal way.  Giving the customers what they wanted, when they wanted it.  We found out that it was that personal touch that gave customer service a whole new meaning and, in the process, the store became noted for this added touch.  It became a win, win situation.

Employees, most generally, become an untapped source and are merely hired to do a job, maintain company policies and project a positive attitude towards the customers.   And, it is unfortunate that this well of knowledge and creativity gets put to the side.  For, as we saw in the years past, these people provide ideas and creations that can promote a new market for these companies that, not only, can improve sales but provide customers with what they want.

The good old days may be gone, but they are not forgotten.  As employees, we had an ability and we used it for the good of the company and customers alike and at the same time it provided much for us as well.  This gave us a feeling of ownership which made us feel like we were a part of something and showed that we had something to offer.

Talk at ya later!