Take care of your employees so that they can take care of your customers. A fantastic experience with an employee can change a customer’s entire shopping experience.
As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Shemirani.
Rachel Shemirani understands the value of good food at good prices as Barons Market Senior Vice President. Born and raised in San Diego, Rachel began working at the family-owned market in high school, running the register and stocking shelves before working her way up to her current role. Rachel oversees advertising, marketing, brand strategy and community engagement for Barons Market. She also serves as the gatekeeper for new products, leading weekly food panels to hand select high-quality and affordable products.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My father and his brothers started Barons Market in 1993 so this business is in my blood. Growing up, I vividly remember talking about Barons at the dinner table with my family and as soon as I was old enough, I started as a cashier and stocker in one of the stores in high school and college. After I graduated college, I was promoted to Assistant Manager in one of the stores. I knew that I wanted to have a career in Marketing and so I left the company for a few years and moved to the Bay Area where I took a job as a marketing coordinator for a large law firm. I learned so much in that role and after about 5 years, I moved back to San Diego to rejoin Barons.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I rejoined the company in 2009, I worked on the store floor for about a month to relearn the ropes, learn about what was new and to remind myself of the day-to-day operations of the store. I then moved to the Home Office and started my new role as Marketing Manager. One of the very first in store events I did was to introduce our customers to our new bulk section. And my BRILLIANT idea was to have one of the employees dress up as “Bulk Man”. They would stuff their shirts with fake muscles and customers would come in and take a picture with him. When I presented this idea, the managers of the stores looked at me like I had spinach growing out of my forehead. They didn’t love the idea but it was so out of the box, they thought we should try it. As you can imagine this idea was just plain weird and did not work to promote our new bulk selection, whatsoever!
Lesson: while it’s always great to think outside of the box, not all idea are good ones. Listen to your store managers! They have their ear to the ground and more often than not, have better ideas than you.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
When I moved to the Bay Area and got hired on at the law firm, I worked with an incredible team of women. They took the time to teach me, mentor me, and support me. I learned so much from them and when I rejoined Barons Market, I made sure that I did the same with the women around me.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
Customer experience is one of the many reasons why customers will shop at brick and mortar stores vs online. Our goal is to create an engaging, exciting, taste-bud tempting, and fun experience, each and every time a customer visits our store and we’ve created brand loyalty but doing just that. Further, our customers have become our brand ambassadors, sharing how much they love Barons with their family and friends and on their social media platforms. Great customer service and an exciting in-store experience will create an emotional connection with the customer. Many of our customers know our employees by name because of the countless conversations they’ve had. From a new crop of apple variety to what’s going on in the community, authentic connections are being made between our employees and customers. We’re so very proud of that.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
Great customer experience is directly linked to how happy your employees are. If your employees are happy, your customers will be happy. In the grocery and retail industry, employees get overlooked all the time, when really, they are the key to your success. So, how do you make your employees happy? Respect them for who they are, value their ideas, help them discover their talents, treat them like people, not robots. Spending the energy, time and money into investing in our employees is the key to our success. Whenever a manager wants to let an employee go, for whatever reason, we ask them to reread our Company Values. Is there a real problem with the employee or is it lack of training? Are they in the right position? The right department? If you treat your employees with respect and kindness, they’ll love what they do. And when they love what they do, the customers have a more enjoyable experience in the store. There’s nothing worse than when you go into a store and the employee clearly doesn’t want to be there.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
Absolutely. You’re not only competing with local competition but with huge companies with huge platforms. Creating an exciting in-store experience while making sure your service to the customer is genuine and positive, is the reason why customers will choose to shop at your store. Also, we are constantly challenging ourselves to think of new and creative ideas for the store. We are constantly trying to introduce new and unique features in our store. You must be unafraid to make mistakes and try new things.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
A few years ago, we added artisan olive oil and balsamic vinegar bars to our stores. We have fresh cut baguettes next to the bar so that customers can go around and taste any (or all) of the 24 different olive oils and balsamic vinegars of their choice. This bar was an immediate hit with our customers. So much so, that customers were buying them and giving them out as gifts to their family and friends. Our customers became brand ambassadors for our stores virtually overnight.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
To this day, we get emails from people all over the country about our olive oils and balsamic vinegars. They tell us they are the best oils and vinegars they’ve ever had and have asked us to ship them. We don’t have that capability at this time but it’s something that we’ve talked about doing since we are constantly getting these types of requests.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Take care of your employees so that they can take care of your customers. A fantastic experience with an employee can change a customer’s entire shopping experience.
- Engage all the senses — From visually beautiful displays, to friendly conversation, to the smell of fresh brewed coffee and tasting a featured recipe at our demo station, engaging a customers senses makes the shopping experience exciting and fun.
- Research your competition. Go into their stores and see what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong. Be open to being inspired by an idea that you can make your own.
- Stay true to your mission and company values. Whenever we have a really big decision to make, we review our mission and our company values. It helps us remain true to ourselves as a company.
- Community engagement is essential to the customer experience. Before we open a new store, we research the community and meet with community leaders so that we’re able to identify the community’s needs and help where we can.
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
One of the best ways your customers’ experience goes beyond their in-store experience, is to be an active participant in the community. A great example is when one customer asks us to support their child’s fun run with healthy snacks, other parents at the event take notice and will reach out to us thanking us for our support. That parent will also talk about us on their social media platforms. Often, other parents will reach out to us about other events in the neighborhood. They are so happy that we’ve helped support the event, they’ll not only tell others but will ultimately come into the store, maybe even for the first time and get to be wowed by the in-store experience.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I ask myself this question all the time: what can I do to make my community thrive? Finding the right local organizations to partner with is essential to our company.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow Barons Market on Instagram at @BaronsMarket.