Costco, Customer Experience Success & Little Things.

by Jeannie Walters

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CostcoLast night, in a strange moment, I found myself watching a CNBC show about Costco. Yes, Costco – the mega discount warehouse chain. Here’s a clip from The Costco Craze.

Some fascinating tidbits from the show:

  • The company never advertises. Ever.
  • The maximum markup for any product ever is 15%.
  • Costco posts $93 billion in annual sales. (Yes, that’s a B in billions)

But here’s what struck me about it. The founder and former CEO of Costco, Jim Sinegal, said (and I’m paraphrasing) that success is really about doing a million little things well over and over again. Think about that. It’s not the big idea or the store design or the way you price your products. It’s the little things.

Isn’t this true for all businesses? Years ago, sitting the lobby of a client bank, I asked the customers some basic questions on their way out the door. One of them was the uber-simplistic “What do you like about it here?”

So many of those customers answered what they liked was the relationship with the teller or banker. One woman, clearly rushed, stated, “They always smile and get it right. That’s all I ask.”

She liked how the employees at the bank “got it right.” It could be a variety of things, but essentially customers want companies to deliver “right” with a smile.

Costco is not glamorous, and yet shoppers describe it as “fun.” They pay their employees a lot more on average than most retailers, keeping turnover much lower than others. They keep a determined focus on their original strategy – low margins, low overhead, big profits.

There is nothing revolutionary about this, and yet companies forget it and instead launch splashy web sites that don’t work or hire surly employees who don’t care. It is absolutely the little things done well over and over.

How would you grade your own company on doing the little things well over and over? How about those where you are the customer?

Photo Credits: coolmikeol and aquababe via Creative Commons


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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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