Whole Foods … Whole Customer … Happy Experience … Happy Customer


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It all started with Beef Stroganoff…..

Inspired by the visit of a great cook, my cousin who normally eats Indian style vegetarian food, was inspired to cook something out of the ordinary and decided on something quite unusual for her, a dish she remembered from the days of our carefree youth “Beef Stroganoff”. Yummm!

Off she went to Whole Foods to get the ingredients. In this age of convenience, she looked for “Beef Stroganoff” mix, to which she could “just add beef”.

Finding none, she asked for help. The aisle assistant, not knowing the answer, brought her to the font of wisdom at the store: the manager. Being the font of wisdom, the manager likely guessed they did not stock such a thing and brought her to the Customer Service desk at the front of the store, an attractive counter, surrounded by the sight and scents of freshly cut flowers for sale.

First they went check the stock online – and found no such product, as expected. So they looked up a Beef Stroganoff recipe and found one at:


Next the customer service representative walked with my cousin and helped find each of the recipe ingredients: sour cream, fresh tarragon, mushrooms, nutmeg, shallots….. don’t your taste buds start to tingle in anticipation?

My cousin told the whole story to me this morning over coffee, “Remarkable” she said.


When you can assess the customer’s real need – in this case, the wish to recreate a feeling from her youth, you can surpass expectations and create a memorable experience that will be told and re-told.

What does it take to deliver memorable customer experience like this?

First note, the sale for the ingredients was more than the cost of packaged mix, since the quantities were higher than could be used in one dish.

Second, my cousin, the customer left far happier than if she had just bought the mix.

Defies normal marketing logic doesn’t it: Paid more, bought more, happier, tells more people what a great place it is.

It’s not just hiring the right people and setting the right goals and rewards. Its the way the employees treat each other, the customers and the food: with respect and appreciation.

It’s the feeling in the store, that food is not just whole, but it is a contributor to happiness and well being of people. People are important at Whole Foods. Not just what they want to eat, but the whole person.

They pay attention to the “whole customer” at just like they pay attention to the food at Whole Foods.

And it pays off.

As the recession and high gasoline prices work their way through US family budgets – households are going to discount stores to stretch their dollar. Others will look for nurturing respite even in grocery shopping, while cutting back on expenses.

The human to human connection is more precious than ever as times get tough.

Delivering great Customer Experience is going to make the difference to the US retailers that make opportunity in tough times.

Mei Lin Fung
Institute of Service Organization Excellence, Inc.
Mei Lin Fung, www.isoe.com blogs on ebCEM – evidence-based Customer Experience Management. The Service Leadership Transformation Program developed in an innovative public private partnership with Avaya and Oklahoma State University received the Phillip Crosby Golden Medallion in 27. Her curriculum has been implemented by Microsoft Telesales in China, and Johnson and Johnson in Asia. She designed the first US Department of Labor approved Contact Center Apprenticeship Program in Oklahoma. Blog: Learning to Earn Customer Trust by Mei Lin Fung


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