This year’s In-store Bakery Operation of the Year is Hy-Vee Inc., based in West Des Moines, Iowa, and the company has taken it’s slogan, “A helpful smile in every aisle,” to a whole new level of branding. It can be found almost everywhere there is a Hy-Vee logo. It’s plastered on the sides of 18-wheelers below giant photos of actual employees (all smiling of course), and it’s found on employee name tags.
For full disclosure, I too once had one of those helpful smiles, as I worked in my local Hy-Vee during my high school and college years. And I experienced firsthand just how that slogan and way of doing business has permeated the markets that Hy-Vee operates in. Customers aren’t afraid to ask, “Where’s your helpful smile?” Do they know how hard it is to walk around with a perma-smile?
Now, Hy-Vee doesn’t expect its employees to have perma-smile. That inauthenticity would actually defeat the purpose of its goal, which is to create an environment where employees are expected to anticipate when customers need help and where customers expect that such help will be readily and gladly given. In talking with Tony Byington, Hy-Vee’s assistant vice president, bakery operations, I wasn’t surprised to hear him reference the slogan several times during the course of our conversation. The company and its employees take it very seriously.
It’s a philosophy that all bakeries can benefit from and should take to heart. When was the last time you checked to see how you’re employees greet customers (I’m hoping they do)? Do they act as though they really want to help customers? And not as though customers are interrupting the other work that needs to be done?
Good customer service is something that can be easy to overlook–all staff inherently want to help or they wouldn’t work in a service job, right? That is definitely true for some but not for all. Simply telling staff to greet customers with a smile doesn’t train them to do so. It takes repeated conversations to get that mentality ingrained in employees. A smile can go a long way.
And sometimes we all can use a helpful smile.