Customer Service and Service Training

Excellent customer service is essential to achieving any other goals that a food co-op may have.  Co-op employees, perhaps focused on the personal challenges and rewards of individual jobs, sometimes overlook the primary importance of providing great service.  Customer service training is necessarily an ongoing program at most food co-ops.

Mari Roseman of the National Cooperative Grocer Association, in “Two Faces of Customer Service,” suggests “five way to ensure you have great customer service (in Zingerman’s Guide to Great Service, by Ari Weinzweig), interpreted here for co-ops: define it, teach it, live, measure it, reward it.  We’d add: hire for it." This article and the ones described below are linked at the bottom under Related Content.

Weinzweig and others founded Zingtrain,, which delivers customer service training that has positively impacted numerous food co-ops.

Bruce Palma of Co-opportunity, in “Smile, Please, You’re in Front of a Customer,” describes some ways that co-op makes sure that service and customer satisfaction are foremost.

A much earlier two-part article, by Dale Bramhall, summarizes the basics: "Practicing the Art of Uncommon Courtesy,” and “Taking Stock of Your Customer Service Level.”

Good service can begin with, or be undermined by, working relations within the store. These dynamics are discussed in, “Internal Service: Where good store service really begins,” by Kelly Wiseman and Dawn Smith of Bozeman Community Food Co-op.

In a co-op listserve comment on customers whose behavior could be considered annoying to other customers or to co-op staff, Elizabeth Archerd of Wedge Co-op offered a temperate view (May 2011):  “We don't get involved with policing customer cell phone behavior. Mostly we get eye-rolls rather than complaints about other customers.  It would be nice if people could handle this level of disturbance themselves instead of asking us to intervene with something as extreme as a ban on loud customers. What's about people who are getting hard of hearing, who tend to speak too loudly sometimes?  We can't ban rudeness anyway. Theft, harassment, defacing property, extreme disruptiveness – yeah, we have to ban that behavior and the people who engage in them. But if we go after impoliteness, we're finished as a brand. Everyone has bad days.”

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