Field Service Superheroes: A Tale from the Trenches
How Trader Joe’s Delivered Superior Service
If you’ve ever lived in an area with significant annual snowfall, you know how much it can hamper deliveries and essential services. (If you haven’t, then just imagine what two feet of standing snow looks like). For those who cannot easily trudge through the snow, it becomes crucial to stock up on supplies to wait out the storm.
But what if they can’t stock up in time? In the case of an 89-year-old Pennsylvania grandfather and World War II veteran (let’s call him Mr. Smith), he needed to find someone to deliver groceries to his snowed-in apartment complex. His daughter frantically called several local markets for grocery delivery, but only one said they offered it—Trader Joe’s.
They actually don’t offer that service. But for this instance, they offered to deliver Mr. Smith’s food, through the snowstorm, for free. This story went viral after being posted on Reddit, and has become a prime example of superior customer service in the past few years.
No red tape. No fanfare or elaborate advertising. Just good service—when it’s needed most. So what can field service professionals learn from stories like this?
Timing and quality are essential for any field service management operation—but it takes a certain level of relationship development to make the customer experience truly meaningful.
Here are field service relationship takeaways from the Trader Joe’s story.
- Address more than the customer’s current needs.
When Mr. Smith’s daughter called Trader Joe’s for the delivery, they offered him additional options beyond the original grocery list. Mr. Smith lived on a low-sodium diet, so Trader Joe’s provided recommendations for several days worth of meals that would adapt to his diet. By doing this, Trader Joe’s took a single customer experience and built a lasting relationship with Mr. Smith and his family (and perhaps everyone who read the article online).
Excellent field service shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. If your operatives view their service as a one-time experience, then it’s time to train them up on the value of building relationships.
Customer experience consultant Ron Kaufman notes that this long-form view helps separate good service from adequate service—and can be a big differentiator for small businesses looking to compete with larger companies in similar markets.
“Every customer also hopes that the company will take care of his or her needs in the future,” said Kaufman. “So giving great service opens the opportunity to become the trusted advisor for the customer, not just the guy who shows up and fixes the problem.”
- Don’t let red tape get in the way of timely service.
Trader Joe’s isn’t a grocery delivery service, but that didn’t stop them from adjusting their process to accommodate the Mr. Smith and his situation. They quickly delivered true value beyond the standard grocery service, and avoided any red tape issues that could have stalled delivery.
About two-thirds of U.S. companies have a customer service ranking of OK or less, according to Forrester Research. Within that study, 77% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service. Waiting too long for service—either on the phone or in-home—can directly impact your repeat customer rate and customer satisfaction.
Carl Mazzanti, CEO of a premier IT consulting firm eMazzanti Technologies, makes this point clear in a recent field service management discussion on which metrics are most important for field service companies:
“To start, above all else, we all value our time,” Mazzanti said. “As such, the time to respond is the number one metric. The longer someone waits to be heard, the frustration level increases exponentially. The second metric is time to resolution or return to status. Whatever the issue, we all want out as fast as possible.”
- Aim for the first-time fix.
Because Trader Joe’s doesn’t normally offer delivery service, they essentially had one chance to provide exceptional value for their customer. When the food arrived at the elderly man’s apartment, he was set for days without needing to leave.
According to the Aberdeen Group, the best field service organizations achieve a 90% success rate with their first in-home visits. It’s not just a matter of timeliness and customer satisfaction—solving the problem the first time around prevents excess costs in vehicle usage and technician hours.
Trader Joe’s story of superior service is just one of many that follow these key tenets of field service excellence. From initial contact to final delivery, the company prioritized the immediate and ongoing needs of its customer, adapted their process to serve him, and solved his issue with the first attempt. Stay tuned for our next installment of Tales from the Trenches.