Channels / Recovery / Social Media

18 hours – how a loaf of bread helped improve the customer experience


It is no secret that I am a fan of Twitter. A regular ‘tweeter’ I have grown to be a fan over the last couple of years. Not only does it allow me to get up to the minute information on essential news and sporting activity (such as the Leyton Orient score – sad but true), the social media channel also enables me to keep up to date on the latest trends and insight related to customer service and customer experience. Increasingly, I have also started to use twitter to ‘communicate’ with companies that I interact with. Twitter has become my ‘customer service channel’ of choice. Over the last 24 hours, I have had another experience that highlights why (if done well), I believe that Twitter has become the most effective way to ‘talk to organisations’.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post on this subject about Waitrose (http://ijgolding.com/2013/04/18/got-a-problem-get-tweeting-the-story-of-a-fresh-cream-eclair-without-the-cream/) – they were expert at responding to an issue that I had. You would almost expect that from one of the leading customer service brands in the UK. What I would like to share with you in this blog post is that proficiency in dealing with customer issues via Twitter is not exclusive to the Waitroses of the world.

I am going to explain the story as a series of events on a timeline – the story starts yesterday afternoon (27th May 2013) – all times are approximate:

15:15 – The Golding’s have guests in the house – The Frosts also have three children. Sensing that we are low on supplies, Mrs G decides that we need a supermarket ‘top up’. I am dispatched to our local Morrisons in Chester to obtain the essentials.

15:45 – Having got some fruit and milk in my shopping basket, I decided to get a loaf of bread. Morrisons fresh bread is lovely, so I plumped for a fresh Tiger Loaf (unsliced) and took it to the bread slicing machine.

15:47 – Having stood by the slicing machine for a couple of minutes, I could see two members of staff in the bakery area behind the shelving. One of the members of staff glanced at me, but carried on with her work. The other chap (who I now believe was the bakery manager) was on the phone).

15:48 – Finishing his phone call, the bakery manager also glanced at me, but then commenced a conversation with the other bakery member of staff. That staff member glanced at me again, but made no attempt to finish the conversation, or point out that a customer was waiting.

15:50 – I was starting to get a bit irritated. Another customer had started a queue behind me. Neither member of staff had made any attempt to stop what they were doing to come and serve me. At this point, a third member of staff appeared from behind the bread ovens. He seemed surprised to see me waiting. As he immediately made his way over to me, the bakery manager decided that it was time to make his move.

15:51 – Apologising profusely, the bakery manager claimed that neither he nor his other member of staff had seen me – despite me quite clearly noticing them glancing my way on a number of occasions. I expressed my displeasure, and made my way to the checkout.

15:54 – In the time it took me to get to the checkout, I decided that I needed to express my displeasure to Morrison’s directly. What I had experienced is unlikely to have been a one-off. I am a big believer in telling companies when there is an issue (constructively), so that they can prevent another customer experiencing the same thing in the future. Here is the tweet I sent whilst waiting to get through the checkout:

0 morrisons bread

16:02 – As I sat in the driver’s seat of my car I glanced at my phone. I could see that I had a tweet come in – it was a response from Morrisons – 8 minutes it took them to respond to me – 8 minutes!!!! In between packing my bags and getting in to the car, this is what they responded with:

0 morrisons bread1

I will just take a little break in sharing the story at this point. It is important that I summarise the key points so far. I had an issue, I tweeted the company I had experienced the issue with, and that company responded to me almost straight away. Not only did they respond, they apologised (without even knowing the full story), and provided me with a call to action – they want to speak to me about the issue. I do not know about you, but I think that is amazing service. Think what might have happened if I had decided to provide my feedback using traditional customer service channels. I could have spoken to customer services ‘in-store’. That might have worked, but I am always dubious as to whether or not the person on the customer service desk will actually do something. I could have emailed Morrisons…..if I could have found the email address. I might still be waiting to get a response. I could have phoned……if I could find the telephone number. All in all, I cannot think of a channel that would get the information to the centre of an organisation quicker and more effectively.

So what happened next:

16:45 – This is where things get really impressive (in my opinion). The Golding’s and Frost’s had decided to go out for dinner. As we started to drive in to the centre of Chester, my mobile rang. Being the law-abiding driver that I am, I passed my phone to Naomi. The person calling was doing so from a number that I did not recognise. Naomi answered – to our surprise, it was the bakery manager from our local Morrisons. It was less than an hour since I had sent my tweet, and the bakery manager was phoning me personally!! As I was driving, we asked him if I could call him back at a more convenient time. And that is how things were left.

09:45 – Dawn had broken on a typically wet bank holiday Monday. Having been for an early morning run with Mr F, we were preparing the children to pay a visit to the ice-cream farm. I had completely forgotten about my Morrisons experience. As I descended the stairs, my phone rang. It was a local Chester number, so I answered it. I was surprised to find the manager of the local Morrisons store on the end of the line. It was a fantastic five-minute phone call.

Graham (I cannot remember his surname), was brilliant. Although he did not ask me, I explained in detail as to what had happened the afternoon before. If he doubted my story, he did not let on – in fact, Graham was as apologetic as the tweet I had only 8 minutes after the incident itself. Graham told me that he was sent my tweet personally yesterday afternoon. Apparently Morrisons have introduced a new process in the last few weeks – all store managers now receive tweets about their own stores as soon as they come in. This is the first time since the process was introduced that Graham has received one about his store.

Graham said that he was excited to get the feedback – and he genuinely sounded excited. On receiving it, he went in to action immediately – hence me getting a call from the bakery manager within an hour of the incident occurring. Having discussed what happened with the two members of staff on duty, they decided to take some immediate action to prevent the problem from happening again.

One of the issues with the design of the bakery in Chester, is that the racking in front of the bakery is quite high. It could potentially act as a wall or barrier between the bakery staff and the customers. It could potentially mean that it is difficult for the staff working behind the racking to see customers waiting to have bread sliced. Whether the staff had seen me or not, Graham’s instinct was to do something that meant that staff could ALWAYS see customers waiting.

So, last night, before the store closed, the configuration of the bread racking was changed. The height was reduced so that (in Graham’s words), even if a customer was only three feet tall, they would still be clearly seen by the bakery staff. In addition, Graham and the bakery staff have committed to make bread slicing a priority, rather than it being seen as an irritation.

15:45 to 09:45 – 18 HOURS – that is it all it took – from me having a negative experience, to an organisation resolving the cause of the problem, to the organisation telling me about it. I think that is pretty amazing. Constructive feedback via twitter has seen a customer and company resolve an issue that will mean a better experience for hundreds/thousands of other customers. And what is all the better is that I made it happen. Graham feels great because he could do something about it. What Morrisons have done for me in the last 24 hours is demonstrate how a company can become great – but to do it is a collaboration – it relies on customers telling them what is wrong, so they can make things better.

Many people call feedback a gift – it is if you use it properly and well. If you have not tweeted an organisation when you have had a bad experience, I urge you to try it. You do not have to be a tweeter yourself. If the organisation does not do a good job of it, get them to read this blog post so they can see how it should be done.

Well done Morrisons. Well done Graham – you deserve a huge amount of credit for the level of service you are bringing to your business.

If you have had good or bad twitter service experiences, I would live to hear about them!!

UPDATE – 31st May 2013

Just been in to Morrisons in Chester – here is the new reduced height bakery shelving – fantastic to see the end result. I did not get bread sliced this time – I may give it a few weeks before I brave the bakery staff again!!

0 morrisons bread2.png

UPDATE – 31st July 2013

I have now posted a follow up blog to this. Featuring a guest post from Mike Sutton, a social media expert, we explore whether or not my experience was a one off. Are Morrisons able to replicate what happened to me time and time again – have a read here – http://ijgolding.com/2013/07/30/morrisons-customer-service-fluke-or-designed-to-delight/

22 thoughts on “18 hours – how a loaf of bread helped improve the customer experience

    • Maybe you should forward the blog post to them!! Alternatively, why not do a guest blog for me about your experience(s) – I will then look to create a post around it…

  1. Wow very impressive indeed..now I’m going to set up my twitter and start interacting with my local stores…see what they come up with!!

  2. Now that’s how to do it. Not only in terms of actively using social media, but then taking action to resolve the problem quickly. And – from my point of view best of all – the tone of voice they used was human.

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  4. Great blog post Ian. I tweeted Morrisons last night to voice my concerns about George Osborne – unfortunately, it appears that bread shelving appears to be much easier and quicker to fix!
    Joking aside you have highlighted what is becoming a seismic shift in the way that companies are having to react to the ‘voice of customer’. Of course, the transparency of social media (and especially twitter) has primarily driven the need to provide such swift responses to dissatisfaction to protect a brand’s credibility – telephone calls, emails and snail mail can be hidden away from public view so the majority of companies still seem to be happy to respond in a tardy and lacklustre manner (which is infuriating!).
    My recent findings as to why companies are still struggling to provide a consistent customer experience across all possible channels is fascinating and could fill a whole blog post!
    I recently did a test with a well known consumer electrical brand and tweeted, emailed and called their contact centre to lodge a complaint all within 5 minutes of each other. My tweet was responded to within 20 minutes, the email replied to the next day and I’ve still not heard back from the contact centre, even though I requested a callback. So, as is with most matters involving large corporations, it appears to be the process that’s at fault rather than the intent.

  5. Hi Ian,

    Glad your blog is going from strength to strength, I enjoy reading it immensely.

    Am I on my own in thinking that if I came home complaining to my wife I’d spent 6 minutes queuing to get my tiger bread sliced she’d laugh at me and say cut it yourself?!

    #justsaying :D

    • Trust me Chris – Mrs G has gone beyond irritation – most of the time she does what most men are best at – pretends to listen!

      Many thanks for your kind words – they are much appreciated

  6. EAT are very good on social. I tweeted them a pic of a burnt bacon roll that was desperately needed following a Christmas party! A prompt response came, a DM and email later and if I returned to the store I would get a free bacon roll to make amends. Though I never went back to claim it as I felt too embarrassed, similar to you and the bread counter! Though EAT have gone up in my estimation as a result.

  7. This is a brilliant experience Ian, thanks for sharing it.

    Mistakes will happen, people may not always be on their best form (who is!), configurations might be ineffective. The mark of greatness is not how perfect everything is, but how ready and agile we are to respond when they are less than perfect.

    In this experience, I think Morrisons demonstrated greatness.

    I would love to do a follow up about this, because on the same day as you had this experience, Morrison apologised to 12 other people (http://bizbuzz.wizewerx.com/apologising_businesses/Morrisons#sources-visuals). I wonder what their experiences were like. If they were as awesome as yours, I would love to celebrate Morrisons for being consistent greatness, if not perhaps they it can provide help in reaching consistency – clearly they are capable of it (given your experience).

    Your blogs are helping me be much more empathic of companies like Morrisons that are really trying to be great at customer experiences – I tend to think they are all money-grabbing soul less businesses. For that, Ian, I am very grateful (and they should be too).

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