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Neither by Snow Nor Rain: Shining Customer Service Amid the Storm

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My family and I were in the path of Hurricane Irene this year. We fared well, except for a loss of power and a fridge of spoiled food. Prior to the storm, we had the same idea everyone else did: “Let’s get a few staples and hunker down.” Except we were on a mini-vacation.

The Story

The Roche Brothers grocery store in Massachusetts offers delivery as well as order and pick-up. So, en route from a cut-short vacation, we ordered some groceries for pick-up the next day. I headed out Sunday in the torrential downpour and winds. I pulled up to the dedicated parking space and chatted through the intercom. I was half-expecting to go inside to get my stuff, but Roche Brothers pride themselves on customer service (no tipping permitted when they load groceries into your car, etc.). So, I know I paid a small fee for the pick-up option. But I was prepared to go into the store and get my order in this case. After all, it was raining sideways!

Instead, the complete opposite happened. I was greeted by Neil in a raincoat, rain and wind whipping in his face. He was smiling. He greeted me professionally. He said to stay put in my car. He opened the hatch to load groceries. He asked if there was any particular order to load the groceries. I said whatever is fastest to get him out of the rain! He smiled and said to not worry and to be safe. He loaded the groceries in an orderly fashion.

The clincher of this story is when the grocery cart attendant swung by---not just pick up the cart, but to help Neal load the groceries into my car. And as the rain is coming down in buckets sideways, he says to me, "Thank you for your business, sir. Have a safe day, OK?"

"Thank you for your business," he says to me. As he is getting soaked. Most people in his position would grumble. Most might not even say anything and just sling the bags, breaking eggs and everything, into the car. Or call in sick. Instead, this guy goes out of his way to say thanks to me on what might be one of the worst outdoor working conditions of the year.

The Lesson

Word of mouth isn't dead. I told this story to a handful of people that day, and again the next. The story I told wasn’t: “My grocery guy is great.” Instead it was: "The Roche Brothers supermarket in Westborough is awesome because of their customer service. Listen to what happened to me a few days ago ... "

You might say, "Whatever, Alan. Word of mouth is dead. This is an isolated incident." To that, I respond, “Well, tell that to the people I’ve already told.  And, you’re reading this right now, aren’t you?  so it worked right?” By virtue of your reading this, it’s appearing on the MarketingProfs Daily Fix.

Good customer stories travel far. What are you doing to empower your employees to be part of those?

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Alan Belniak works at a major Boston-based software company (PTC) focusing on product lifecycle management, where he is employed as the company’s Director of Social Media Marketing. In this role, Alan works in strategic and tactical fashions to find ways to use social media channels to better interact with customers, and to direct that feedback to marketing, R&D, sales, and other appropriate groups. Alan holds a bachelor’s of Science degree in engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, MA, and his master’s degree in Business Administration, with a focus on Technology Entrepreneurship, from Babson College in Wellesley, MA. Alan blogs over at, and can be found on Twitter, too:

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  • by Edgar Diaz Fri Sep 16, 2011 via blog

    Wow! Love this! such a simple and powerful action...and yes, word of mouth is alive as never before with social media empowering it!

  • by Rick Merritt Fri Sep 16, 2011 via blog

    This is an excellent example of "customer service". I hope our company would be willing to have that kind of commitment.

  • by Lionel Bachmann Wed Sep 21, 2011 via blog

    Anybody who believes word of mouth is dead has never heard of any of the social networks. Even outside of social networks, you still have blogs like this. Word of mouth is alive and more powerful than ever.

  • by Tucker M Wed Aug 8, 2012 via blog

    Great story! Everyone seems to be so worried about the damage that one bad mouthing comment online can have, (which it really can!) that they forget how much good can come from one loyal customer voicing their admiration for a business, such as you sharing this story!

    This reminded me of an article a coworker of mine recently wrote which focused on how empowerment is the key to increasing employee engagement . Feel free to check it out - I think you would definitely agree with what she has to say!

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