Within a four-mile radius of our house, there are 17 grocery stores. Of those, I frequent three. Not because I want to, and not because I like shopping, but because none of them carry everything I want. The three I go to most are Sprouts, Tom Thumb, and Trader Joe’s. All of them have the plusses and minuses, each has their idiosyncrasies, but there’s one thing all have in common: when I check out, the checker always asks, “did you find everything you wanted?” or some variation of that question.
When I was young, I don’t remember anyone asking me, “did you find everything you wanted?” I think they were more concerned with getting me the hell out of there before I broke anything. But at some point, some retail consultant must have figured out that to maximize the dollar purchases for each visit, you need to ask people, “did you find everything you wanted?” It’s a good way to increase sales, keep in touch with the customer, and take care of the customer. Every checker in every one of the 17 grocery stores in my area knows to ask every customer that question.
Have you ever had the experience in a long line at the grocery store where the person in front of you with a million groceries in her cart suddenly pauses and says to the checker, “oh, I forgot peanut butter. I’ll be right back.”? The 30 people in line behind her all roll their eyes as she meanders off to find the peanut butter and maybe pick up a few other items. You don’t want to be THAT person, right?
So I had this really interesting experience at Trader Joe’s. I’m in line, checking out, busy time, several people in line behind me, and the checker asks the question, “Did you find everything you wanted?” I said I did, and then, with a painful flash of memory, realized that I hadn’t. “Argh,” I slapped my forehead, “I forgot flour – my wife asked me to get flour.” I looked at the line behind me – I don’t want to be THAT person – “But, I can get it next time,” I told her.
“It’s no problem,” the checker said, “we’ll get it fast.” She rang a little bell. Instantly a young man appeared. “John,” the checker said, “this gentleman needs flour.”
“What kind of flour, and what size,” John asked me. I told him, and he jogged off. (Not exaggerating here – he jogged!)
He returned with the flour even before the checker finished ringing up the rest of my groceries. No rolling of the eyes behind me, Trader Joe’s got at extra seven bucks, and I made my wife happy (priceless).
An Interesting Fact
One of the key performance indicators (KPI’s) of grocery stores is sales per square foot. Guess what, in that measure, Trader Joe’s is number one. In fact, they’re number 1 every year. Number two is so far behind that Trader Joe’s should win the number one place, the number two place, and the number three place.
A Funny Story
Again, I’m at the grocery store. This time it’s Tom Thumb. I cannot find graham cracker crumbs. I’m going to make a Key Lime Pie for my mother-in-law, who loves my Key Lime Pie, and I need graham cracker crumbs for the crust. I can’t find them, and there’s no employee to ask. I give up, grab a box of graham crackers, gonna pound the crackers, and make my own damn crumbs. While I’m in the checkout line, it occurs to me: the checkout clerk is going to ask THE QUESTION, and I’ll find out where the graham cracker crumbs are. Furthermore, there is no one in line behind me, so I don’t have to worry about being THAT guy. Sure enough, the cashier asks, “Did you find everything you wanted?” I beam. “I did not,” I reply, “I couldn’t find graham cracker crumbs.”
The clerk looks thoughtful and then says, “Yeah, I don’t know if we carry that.” I wait expectantly. I arch my eyebrows and cock my head, waiting for some kind of resolution. Waiting for the follow up that never happens. Nothing. Nada. Zero. He continues ringing up my groceries, reads me the total. I pay and leave…
The Interesting Fact Corollary
Tom Thumb does not lead the grocery industry in sales per square foot.
There are so many lessons from this story. Here are two that I got:
- Incremental sales are important. There are many reasons why Trader Joe’s leads the industry in sales per square foot, but one of them is incremental sales. They make it easy for their customers to buy more. If you want incremental sales, then make it easy for your customers to buy more.
- Training and Processes. Training is important. Processes are important. Training to processes is REALLY important. Tom Thumb has training. The cashier knew to ask the question. He didn’t know what to do if the answer was “no” and probably had no supporting process if the customer answers “no”. Trader Joe’s has training. They have the processes. They train to those processes. If you answer the question “no”, the cashier knows to ring the bell. If stock runner hears the bell, he knows to drop everything and get to the customer, and get his product quickly, so the customer doesn’t feel awkward, and the people in line don’t roll their eyes. Result: increased sales, happy customers, and industry-leading KPI’s.
How About You?
What’s your takeaway from the story? What did you learn? What will you do differently? I’d like to know. Email me and let me know… David.Heimer@ServiceNation.com
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