Customer Service with a Smile: Creating a Climate Where Customers Come First

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Coffelt, Tina
Coffelt, Tina
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Nestled in the small, manufacturing and university town of Maryville, MO, resides a great example of customer service—Fred Mares. Fred is a greeter at the local Hy-Vee store, which has survived the infringing competition from Wal-Mart when other local and regional grocers could not. There are several reasons Hy-Vee has survived and even expanded its Maryville food center, one of which is Fred Mares. Fred is no ordinary grocery store greeter. Fred excels at extending a warm, genuine greeting to every customer who enters the store. He remembers people’s names and important events in their lives. I left this town over seven years ago, yet he frequently asks my mother how I’m doing. He reads the local newspaper and remembers information. He remembers where I live and my profession. When I am in town, Fred immediately recognizes me and calls me by name. My story is not unique. Countless local citizens make this same claim. What else does Fred do that makes him extraordinary? His presence is felt throughout the store. He offers hugs, sings songs, and gives fl owers. When one customer made her fi rst visit to Hy-Vee after the passing of her husband, Fred sang “One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus” to her in the store! Years later, when this woman passed away, her granddaughter ventured into the store. Fred sang the same song to the granddaughter and gave her a red rose. The store director in 2010, Ben Conway, said, “In all my years with Hy-Vee, I have never worked with an employee who has a true passion and sincerity for customer service like he does. Fred makes a difference in people’s lives every day.” In 2010, Fred was recognized for his outstanding service when he received one of nine Hy-Vee Legendary Customer Service awards.


This book chapter is published as Coffelt, T. A. (2013). Customer service with a smile: Creating a climate where customers come first. In J. A. Wrench (Ed.), Workplace Communication for the 21st Century: Tools and Strategies that Impact the Bottom Line (pp. 77-112). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Publications. Posted with permission.