Company Blog

Service Above All Else

by Adam Zack — June 4, 2015

pass-failContinuing on last weeks theme of what makes—separates—great companies from the simply good to terrible, customer service always seems to be the key differentiator. And it’s not just businesses we shop; it’s municipalities, utilities and even public transportation. I was once traveling to London with a layover in beautiful Newark, New Jersey. We had to wait nearly five hours. As an airport employee approached me, I asked him what time it was. He looked at his watch out of reflex, then looked me in the eye and said he didn’t know. And no, his watch wasn’t broken. And yes, I am sure it wasn’t just a wristband. He knew, but he chose not to tell me for his own reasons. God knows he looks at his watch to see when it’s time for his break. It was a blatant example of “I just don’t CARE.” So I never flew through Newark again. And I told about 30 people the story, so I am the reason everyone thinks Newark sucks!Caring, from ownership through management to employees, sets the foundation for great customer service as one of your core values. Who doesn’t want to be the company that people talk about in a good way: “You’re not going to believe happened to me today at the grocery store!” What? They screwed up your sandwich again? They put dog food in the chili? They commented on your wine p...
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The Point of No Return

by Adam Zack — May 27, 2015

reportCardDoes anything say “We don’t give a crap about customer service” more than a Gestapo like return policy? When you think of great customer service, which national brands do you think of? I think Nordstrom sets the gold standard. And you know what their return policy is? They don’t even have a return policy! Check it out! Nordstrom Return Policy Maybe you have heard the tale of a man taking two tires back to a Nordstrom in Alaska and getting a refund, even though they did not even sell tires. I am sure there has been some embellishing over the years, but who wouldn’t say “Wow!!” upon hearing it. It automatically gives you confidence that if for any reason you’re not happy with what you buy, you can get a refund without going through the Spanish Inquisition to get it. And how about Costco? How great is it that if you don’t like, need or want something, you can take it back without a receipt whenever you feel like it (OK, with electronics they give you 90 days, which is extremely generous. Everything else has no time limit.) Customer focused return policies are a vital key to great service. Lucky’s Market, with 18 stores in 11 states has this return policy:...
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by Adam Zack — May 21, 2015

Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older – David Bowiechange-architect-sign1Maybe the people most resistant to change in the country are conventional format American grocers. I’m talking the old school, this-is-how-we-do-it-because-its-always-how-we’ve-done it grocery lifers. The produce managers who grew up unloading 50 pound sacks of potatoes. The meat guy who apprenticed breaking down sides of beef. The baker who insists white bread is making a comeback. The grocer who says “If they don’t like it, they can take their business elsewhere.” Well guess what? Quality potatoes don’t come in 50 lb sacks. Carcass beef is virtually non-existent. Millennials like whole grain breads. The American consumer has changed and is taking his business elsewhere. Of course there are hundreds of exceptional grocers whose leadership has led their stores down the path of change. No, they have actually blazed the trail of change, and many have followed. Or at least attempted to. We work with dozens of grocers who live the motto: Change is good.My uncle, who was an incredible water skier, once told me “If you’re not falling, you’re not trying.” I’ve never forgot that ski wisdom. It is so practical to our business. We’ve got to try change if we want to get better. There is...
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You Gotta Have Faith, Faith, Faith

by Adam Zack — May 14, 2015

faith-blogIt’s never wrong to do the right thing. Never. You treat people right, with respect, with a caring spirit and good things come your way. My simple definition of karma: What goes around, comes around. I’m not talking that you’ll win the lottery. Or that you’ll always be happy. Or that your life will be problem free. No, faith in doing the right thing means that you don’t have to worry about lies being uncovered. It means that your regrets will be fewer. It means you’ll have a clean conscience. It means that the gossipers have nothing on you. It means that you smile more. Really.Faith in business dealings is incredibly important. It’s not just about maximizing profits, reducing costs and beating the competition. Faith in business is trusting that your clients, vendors and customers share a common belief that when you all do the right thing, success will follow. It results in long term relationships that evolve into truly caring. And when you care, work becomes less of a job and more of a passion.Especially in times of economic distress, your business faith will be tested. Pessimism can yank you by the hair and try to snap your head back. You will question and second guess your decisions. But you did the right thing, made good, honest decisions, ...
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May I Present…

by Adam Zack — May 5, 2015

presentationDo you know the three most important words to increase sales? Price? No. Service? No. Selection? No. Sure they are important factors, and they do influence the buying decision, but the three most important words to get the customer, or should I say potential customer, to stop and check you out are: 1. Presentation. 2. Presentation and 3. Presentation. I learned that lesson about 25 years ago from a customer who listed it just like that. He said “Why would I shop at your deli if the foods look like dog crap?” And he was 100% right. A little extreme maybe, but right. It really applies to almost everything we purchase. If we don’t like the look of a car, we move on. If the photo on the dating website (and I have no experience in this, but I’ve been told) isn’t attractive to you – pass. If the macaroni and cheese in the hot foods case is dry and crusty, well it won’t be on the table for dinner. And if the burger you get doesn’t even come close to resembling the one in the photo, you feel gypped and jaded to future purchases. Presentation, presentation, presentation.In our grocery business, presentation is more than just the food. It’s the creativity of the merchandiser. It’s the good looking and informative signage. It’s the display that stops you in your tracks and makes you go “Wow!...
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Promotion, Promotion, Promotion

by Adam Zack — April 30, 2015

DW and I were recently in Indiana talking to a very respected grocer and his executive management staff about branding and marketing. The topic of promotions came up, and we subsequently talked about the importance of promoting your store during non-traditional promoting times. Maybe because we are both just more than a little weird, we started bouncing ideas around and we felt like the ideas that have some type of humor to them would resonate best with customers and employees. One of my very favorites from DW was a garlic promotion, with the headline “For a guy who smells, he sure is popular!” Or a seedless watermelon promotion: “He’s the Spittin’ image of his father, without the spittin’ part.” In the end, after a couple beers on my part and a couple Cokes for DW, we ended up with a list of over 75 promotional ad themes to share with our customers.So next time you look at your competitors ads and notice how boring and indistinct they are compared to yours, push yourself to think of a new ad theme that will blow both your customers and your competition away. Battle of the Bacons anyone?

Read More: To Theme or N...
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by Adam Zack — April 22, 2015


adjective per·fect \ˈpər-fikt\

: having no mistakes or flaws
: completely correct or accurate
: having all the qualities you want in that kind of person, situation, etc.

I don’t know if there is a word that in the past 5 or so years has been more overused than “perfect”. “I’ll be home in about an hour.” “Perfect.” “I shampood the cat.” “Perfect.” “My feet don’t hurt today.” “Perfect.” “We are out of cheddar but we have American cheese”. “Perfect.” “I only found one mistake on this week’s ad.” “Perfect.” No, “not perfect”, that’s more “acceptable”, “Okay” or “good”. Maybe I am just a little too demanding. When I think perfect, I think I cannot do any better. Not one thing would make it better. It’s flawless. And flawlessness is one thing that doesn’t run in my family. We are a pretty confident bunch, and fairly competent too, but flawlessness did not dip its toe in our gene pool. I don’t think it was even in the same back yard. Our compliments tend to be more of “Not bad”, “Pretty good”, “Nice try” and for something really exceptional maybe a “Great! (with the ...
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The Magic Words

by Adam Zack — April 15, 2015

magic-words-2Nothing mesmerizes like magic. Remember how certain phrases or words were the conductors for magic to really happen? “Open Sesame” (does anyone remember that? From Alibaba and the Forty Thieves? We used to change it to Open Sez Me!) or “Abracadabra” invoke magic. “Presto change-o”, “Shazam!” and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” all have their place in conjuring magic. But in our very practical household I can remember only three magic words that actually worked: Please and Thank You. As far back as I can remember my parents told us “What’s the magic word?” Please, mom. Or “What do you say?” Thaaannk you. And they worked. Most of the time. I recall asking for something and then not getting it. “But I said PLEASE!”. To this day, from my own kids or from total strangers, the use of the magic words makes you feel good about what you have done. Do you really want to do something when someone simply makes a demand? “Give me that!” No. When you do something for someone, is there anything that puts a sour taste on it more than not receiving a thank you? “That’s the last time I’ll help him out, bastard didn’t even say thank you!”So here we go again, how in the world does this even relate to our beloved grocery business? I...
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It’s Cool to be Cool

by Adam Zack — April 9, 2015

SeasideBagSo have the words “cool” and “grocery store” ever been used in the same sentence? Unless it has to do with the ambient temperature of your store, or the way frozen food feels when the refrigeration system has been down for hours, then the answer is a definite no. And why is that? Can a grocery store, any grocery store, be considered cool? Of course it can, and there are some wonderful stores that embrace food trends, create cutting edge products, have a great rapport with their customers, where the cool people shop and hang out. Wouldn’t you want the cool people (and the warm people too) to be representing your brand by wearing your bitchen’ design on a t-shirt or hat? Carrying your reusable bag that gets peoples attention?It never ceases to amaze me how some really cool restaurants, with their really cool shirts and hats turn around and charge $20 or $25 for them. Really, you don’t have to be a marketing professor to realize that more people are going to pay you to wear your logo around town for others to see if you sell it at a value price. A shirt that costs $5 tops (seriously) that people want to pay to wear, and you’re going to mark it up 400%? In-n-Out Burger gets it changing the design annually and selling them for about $10. Who wouldn’t pay $10 for a cool In-n-Out t-shirt?So what does thi...
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Mirror Mirror…

by Adam Zack — April 2, 2015

mirror-mirror“When I look in your eyes I see a reflection. And that reflection is me, and I look mahvelous, dahling.”
– Billy Crystal (as Fernando Llamas)
Being in retail all my life (literally – my dad worked grocery night crew at Market Basket when I was born.) I have made mistakes many times over by doing the most economical thing as opposed to doing things right. I hired a repair man to fix our ice machine that saved me $100 over the qualified technician, only to find out later that he fixed it by sticking a pencil into the leak, only to cost us over $400 later to fix it right. I thought I could replace a defective electric socket myself to save the cost of having the electrician do it, only to short out all the scales that were on the circuit. Until I learned better I always used the newspaper graphics department to design my ads. After all they were FREE! and I had a budget to meet. Or I would have the radio station write my ads because their service was FREE! I’d have the magazine publisher create my ad because, of course, the service was FREE! Until one day someone pointed out, not demurely, that my ads SUCKED! After indignation and denial wore off and I got over the bruised ego that this verbal ass kicking had g...
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