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Wholesale Knowledge Drain

September 15, 2014

Water_out_the_drain_smallThere has been a lot written about Costco and their success as compared to other “wholesale clubs”. I particularly like this article in Bloomberg. And while I like Costco and have been a member at times, I currently do not live within a reasonable driving distance to one, so I belong to BJ’s.

While chatting with the check out clerk this morning, she commented (as she scanned my quart of blueberries) that they (BJ’s) had finally gotten smart and starting taping the containers shut. I commented that I agreed it was a good thing because I had one pop open on me in my cart and had lost all the berries to the parking lot. She said the same thing had happened to her.

Then she went on to say that she had observed a lot of little things the company could do better. When I asked her if she tells the company about them, her answer was no; that they only care if they do something wrong and never tell them (the staff) when they do something right. She said “I have not been late in eight months, or called out sick, but god help me if my supervisor saw me chewing gum”. (I would guess she is about 40 years old). In a few additional comments, she indicated that she really did not feel appreciated at all, but going to a place like Costco was impractical because it really was too far to drive.

So as a customer, I like the prices & saving, but I did leave today feeling great about the corporation. And it really should not be this way.

Its great that they compete on price. And they try to compete on service. But what could they do if they wanted to compete on experience? How much better could they be – likely at little or no cost difference – if they listened to their employee and their suggestions? After all, the employees on the floor and at the register are the ones that help the customers and experience frustrations.

BJ’s, for as much space as they cover, has a relatively small number of employees per store – an average total of 125 per store. This is the size of many small businesses. How much impact can a manager and a couple of supervisors have if they shift the focus from what is being done wrong, to what is being done right? What would happen to the number of return-customer trips or the average order value if they took in a few of the suggestions? Where is any culture of trying new things at a store level?

I profess to not know a great deal about they way they do these things at BJs. My observations and comments are based on a few cashier conversations and personal experience (like ridiculous wait times at the “customer service” counter). My point in making the observations and comments is simply to encourage you as a manager or business owner to consider these things.

Your employees are the face of your business and your brand. And when they aren’t heard and aren’t cared for, both suffer.

Is there a company that you have experienced with either great positive or negative reaction based on your interactions with employees? How did you feel? Leave us a comment or a story about it.

Dan Kraus
Written by Dan Kraus

With more than two decades of experience in sales, marketing, and go-to-market strategies, Dan Kraus has developed a deep portfolio of experiences that he now uses to help small businesses profitably grow their businesses. As an entrepreneur, Dan understands the challenges of growing a business with limited capital and human resources. As a line of business manager in larger companies such as SAP America and Great Plains Software (now part of Microsoft), his experience launching new business ventures inside reputable organizations established his reputation as a creative and effective executive that could both plan and execute within corporate confines.

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