Shaw’s Supermarket Shows How It “CARES”

Our local Shaw’s Supermarket is undergoing a major renovation. It’s a mess. There are signs of construction everywhere, aisles are being moved around, and there’s a shortage of inventory. The environment is ripe with potentially horrible customer experiences.

But Shaw’s is doing something about it. The supermarket has roving employees asking if they can help shoppers. One of them came up to me when I was looking for a specific cereal that I couldn’t find. He tried to find the cereal (even going into the stockroom), but they didn’t have it. He apologized and gave me a $1 coupon for my troubles.

Here’s what Shaw’s did right with that experience:

  • Anticipated unavoidable customer experience problems.
  • Proactively minimized the negative impact on customers.
  • Empowered employees with easy-to-use service recovery options.

In an earlier post, I introduced CARES” as a benchmark for good customer service. Let’s evaluate this experience using that model:

  • Communication: B-
    The employee was very clear about what he was going to do. It would have been even better if the supermarket had signs up that apologized for the situation and let shoppers know that some employees were roving around trying to help. They might even provide these employees with special “customer service” smocks or something to make their efforts more transparent.
  • Accountability: A
    The employee didn’t just point me to where the cereal might be, he went around and looked for it; clearly taking ownership of my problem.
  • Responsiveness: A
    The employee came up to me and asked if I needed help and then provided me with a coupon even though I did not complain (I found another cereal).
  • Empathy: A
    The employee was very caring in his communications with me (although the situation wasn’t so bad that I needed a lot of empathy).
  • Solution: B+ 
    While I didn’t get the cereal that I was looking for (which would have earned the “A”), I found out quickly that they didn’t have it. And the $1 coupon made the solution work well for me.

The bottom line: Avoiding horrible experiences is often more important than creating great ones.

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

3 thoughts on “Shaw’s Supermarket Shows How It “CARES””

  1. I witnessed a very dissimilar experience when the shaws in gilford, nh was undergoing it’s remodel. The actual store manager, I think his name was ruffert was horrible. Instead of acting responsible I witnessed him on several visits belittle his associates in front of customers and even witnessed him tell a customer to come back in the summer and it would be better. No wonder shaws is going downhill to its competititors thanks to bad managment.

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