How to Turn a Negative Situation Into a Positive Experience

If you get lax and start to take repeat customers for granted, another company will swoop in, woo that customer, and take them away from you.

As a Training account manager for Signature Worldwide, part of my responsibilities is to change the behaviors of the folks who attend my training events. As a company, we have many different methods for doing this, and one of my favorites is through storytelling. I tell stories of my “good” and “not so good” service experiences.

Anyone who knows me, or who has attended one of my training events, knows that I am in love with HEB Grocery Stores. It is a 118-year-old, Texas-based company, and I love everything about it: its products, its stores, its company culture, the way it take cares of its partners, its customer service. I have been shopping with HEB since I was a young girl, tagging along each week as my Mom did her weekly shopping. Several of my family members and friends either have worked for HEB, or still do. As I travel around the country, I speak of HEB to people who have never experienced its stores before and to those who have share my love for them. Those who do not live near an HEB tell me how much they miss shopping in the stores.

The Experience

My traveling lifestyle keeps me away from home nearly every week, so when I am home on the weekends, I enjoy the simple things in life: spending time with my family, doing the laundry, watching TV, and, of course, grocery shopping! I get my list together and on Saturday, I head to the HEB Plus located about 10 to 15 minutes from my home. I love roaming up and down the aisles, looking at the Combo Loco specials, and dancing/singing to the ’70s and ’80s music they play just loud enough. When I head to the checkout lane, I am more than happy to pay for my purchases because of the experience I have had, and I gladly do it every week.

During a recent visit to the store, everything was going as expected, until I hit the checkout lane. The cashier was not so friendly, and she made a face at me when I asked her to use my reusable bags. She then proceeded to toss my items in the bags, and then toss them into my cart. I had never experienced such service in an HEB store before, and it stayed with me all the way home—so much so that I felt the need to let someone know about it. At the bottom of my receipt was the e-mail address for the store manager. I sent an e-mail, detailing what had occurred with the cashier, and explaining my disappointment in a company I had counted on all of my life to deliver a certain level of customer service.

The Response

Within 24 hours of sending my e-mail, I received a call from the store manager. I was unavailable to take the call, so I did not have the chance to speak to him. Another 24 hours went by, and I received a second call from the same manager—again, I was unavailable to take the call, so we did not speak. I then received an e-mail from the store manager, and he apologized for the incident with the cashier, assured me that the cashier had been made aware of my complaint, and that if I wanted to speak to him further, to call him at the store—he also thanked me for bringing and using my reusable bags!

Two weeks later, I was in the store shopping, and I came across one of the store managers. I read his nametag and realized it was the same manager who had responded to my e-mail. I started to tell him that he had left me a couple of voicemails and sent me an e-mail. Before I could introduce myself, he asked me if I was Ms. Jarman. When I told him I was, he immediately apologized again for the incident, and went on to tell me, in person, what had been done to rectify the situation, and assure me that HEB’s goal is to provide exceptional service. We continued to chat, and I started gushing about how much I love HEB stores, and how I talk about them all the time, all over the country.

He was not too surprised when I told him of the people I meet outside of the state who are familiar with the company and have the same love for it that I do—HEB has a Facebook page with 576,000-plus likes! We continued to chat, and he went on about how the company truly is focused on the customer experience; he shared with me that if a customer forgets something while shopping at the store, they can call and ask for the item to be delivered to their home! What? I had never heard of this before—the more he and I talked, the deeper I fell in love with HEB.

Continuously Delivering Value

I tie this story into my training events when we discuss the importance of continuously delivering value to our customers. For a new customer, it is slightly easier to create value for them by simply discovering their needs, then telling them what you have to offer to meet and exceed those needs. For a repeat customer, you have to continuously exceed their expectations: remember their name, their special requests, something about their family or personal life, etc. If you get lax and start to take repeat customers for granted, another company will swoop in, woo that customer, and take them away from you. If a customer is in love with you, no matter what occurs, they will not be easily wooed away by a competitor. In fact, if you continuously exceed your repeat customers’ expectations, then they will feel as if they are “cheating” on you if they do business with another company.

No company is perfect—not even my beloved HEB—but the way you handle a negative customer experience could be the deciding factor in whether customers remain in love with you, or if they choose to just love you and “cheat” with the competition.

I was on vacation the weekend I met the HEB store manager in person. After talking to him, I could not wait to get back out there in front of training event attendees and tell them my HEB story…a company I am in love with, will never cheat on, and for which I hope to work once I retire from my Training account manager position…many, many years from now.

Norma Jarman is a Training account manager at Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.



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