Monday, September 22, 2008

Being nice at what price?

Seth Godin asks why so few companies provide nice service when so many of us would probably pay extra.

"I think there's a huge gap between what people are willing to pay for nice (a lot) and what it would cost businesses to deliver it (almost nothing). Smells like an opportunity," he writes today in How Much Extra for Nice.

I've been pondering that question every time I shop at Trader Joe's, the semi organic grocery story.

The staff are always nice, they're friendly and they're helpful. And blow me away with a feather, they seem happy. Can you believe it? So happy that I wonder if they're smoking something out the back of the store.

They rave about the products, they happily munch on the latest cookies (not those sorts of cookies!) and audibly ooh and aah over them in a way you just don't see in other grocery stores.

After pondering why these folks were so happy, I asked them:

"Are you paid to rave about your products?"

"No," said one. "We just like them."

So I asked another.

"Why do you seem to like working here?"

To my amazement, the sales clerk gave me about six reasons, including:

  • Trader Joe's promotes from within
  • It has great benefits, and
  • It is a fun place to work.
Did his job pay more than Safeway? He didn't seem to know! (But a local job at my Bethesda store pays about $9.50 an hour and up, depending on experience, plus the opportunity for free food, interesting work, dental (!), retirement benefits, etc.)

Trader Joe's has set out to make its fun and smiling service one of the company's competitive advantage, see this list of why to work for the company, and it's worked.

It isn't the cheapest, the range isn't the best, but I try to go there because it makes a change from being scowled at, ignored and treated like a pest.

So what price do I pay for nice? Probably about 10-15% more than my shopping bill from Safeway. What price does Trader Joe's pay to provide nice?

Posted by Internet Marketing Report Online editor Julie Power on Monday September 22.


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