Hello shoppers...

Yesterday I received a very nice email from Ryan Roberts, store director of the Hy-Vee on S.E. 14th and Park - the focus of Thursday's Secret Shopper review.

Ryan's email was thoughtful and balanced - I'll get to it in a minute.

I've also received a lot of reader feedback - 0n the Hy-Vee review, on that specific store, on Hy-Vee in general - which we'll get to in 4,300 minutes, which is when Monday morning rolls around (sorry) along with The Unsecret Shopper's "Monday Morning Reaction" post. (sorry)

Before I share Ryan's smart, savvy words with you, I think it's a great time to share a stupid, un-savvy story with you.

When I was 16 years old, my mother said 25 words that collectively had never been written or uttered throughout the 100,000 year history of human communication. 


She said:

"You probably could smell the pot roast cooking but couldn't hear me calling for you because you have small ears and a big nose."


I had no idea that history was being made in that moment - I was too busy tripping down the hallway, racing to the bathroom, looking for a mirror.

Through the first 16 historical moment-free years of my life, I had never once looked at my nose or ears without bringing along my mouth, eyes, chin, forehead and hair for the visual ride.

They were all together in the whole, not items "sold separately," like batteries that weren't purchased along with the new Operation board game you got for Christmas when you were a kid. Okay no batteries so we'll play with the honor system - if you have to "remove funny bone" and you touch the side, just make a "buzzz" sound.

Pretty stupid, but actually quite savvy...

...sort of like how I saw my face in the mirror at that 16-year-old moment of dawning - and how I would see myself every time I saw my reflection from that moment forward, 29 years later to this moment right now, as I'm typing this, as I now look at myself by turning off this monitor I'm looking into as I'm typing, and see my reflection in the darjenrd mobitwr.

Sorry - darkened monitor.  It's back on....yep, big nose, small ears, and the rest of my face.


The point is that business owners who look upon their customer service as just part of the big ole' whole that includes the issues in accounting and lawn maintenance and shipping and the employee summer outing and in-store signage and company vehicles - are often caught off-guard when detailed, specific evaluations of less than stellar customer service in their store, is handed to them.

Are there business owners like this? Yep. They're often the ones I never hear back from after a secret shopping evaluation - they simply can't reconcile the poor customer service report with the idea in their heads of what their company is - because they believe their company is them.

Ugly baby = ugly company = ugly owner. That's me you're talkin about, ya secret shoppin bum!

This is especially true with owners that name companies after themselves.

The cold hard reality for business owners is that their company does not belong to them, or to their managers. All jokes about President Obama and socialism aside, it belongs to all the people who work there and shop there. The owner lost ownership the moment he/she pounded their first nail and made their first hire.

For owners and managers who get this, who know they've got a big nose and small ears, they'll take it to heart but won't take it personally cause it ain't about them and they know it - and knowing that, makes it easier for them to start spending a lot more time looking in the mirror.

That is a very good thing.

That drive and desire to look intently at the faces and policies and procedures of their customer service template, forces every employee and manager and owner to focus - to look directly at specific customer service issues and begin to address them.

That's called managing a company's public face. 

Ryan, who is smart and savvy, and the smart, savvy employees at Hy-Vee at S.E. 14th and Park - as you'll see in Ryan's email - are working on their big nose and small ears and other public face blemishes, and were working on them before I came stumbling in, and not just recently but for longer than Ryan and I have been alive, as they will also continue to work on them long after I'm cryogenically frozen and brought back to life in 2837, to Secret Shop the intergalactic Hy-Vee at S.E. 14th and Park, on Neptune.

We all want to have a pretty face - but no matter how hard we try, it's never perfect. We'll still see the blemishes.

Here's Ryan's email, about how Hy-Vee is working on theirs.

Have a great weekend - you, Ryan, and you, reader :)


Dear Jonnie,


My name is Ryan Roberts and I am the store director at the Hy-Vee on SE 14th and Park Avenue store you recently visited and wrote about in your blog.


I want to begin by saying WOW and a very big Thank You!  My store subscribes to a number of secret shopper programs that grade us regularly.  I can say that I have learned more about the employees of my store and the training that we need to undertake from your recent blog than I have from many of my recent shopping reports.  I must say that I really admire the lengths you go to in this endeavor and the manner in which you approach it.


Hy-Vee prides itself on exactly what our jingle says “A helpful smile in every aisle.”  Reading your blog, I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed and embarrassed I am in my efforts to properly train my staff to translate that to every customer no matter where they are in the store.  I plan on using your blog to be the basis of my efforts to retrain every single employee in the store so that each of them understand how important it is to live up to the standard that our customers have come to expect.  You said it best yourself that “You can’t help but smile, as you think about what your grocery shopping experience could look like if they would.” 


I can’t begin to thank you enough for this.  Your comments have shown that we all have work to do in meeting the expectations of our customers.  I want to assure you that this blog will be shared with each and every one of my employees so that if and when we are lucky enough to participate again, we live up to “Where there’s a helpful smile, in every aisle”


 Ryan Roberts | Store Director

3221 SE 14th ST |  Des Moines, IA 50320

 "Making Lives Easier, Healthier and Happier"



Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of "The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show," which airs Saturdays 8-9am on 1350 KRNT. Email Jonnie at jonniewright@thebuyosphere.com.

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