Moving to Austin, Texas, means experiencing a lot of big changes. Breakfast tacos are now a way of life. Hook ‘em horns descend upon the UT campus during football season. The scent of smoky barbecue is always around the corner. And of course, the omnipresent HEB supermarket looms in every neighborhood.
When I first moved to Texas in 2017, I knew I would miss my hometown grocery store, its local delicacies, and the familiarity that came with them. But I was surprised to find a new place in my heart for my local HEB. It turns out I’m not the only one who’s fond of them. In 2018, HEB was named one of the best grocery store chains in the US.
So what’s the big deal about this seemingly normal supermarket? What makes it so much better than other grocery stores across the country? While Epicurious claims that the chain’s high quality private label foods set it apart from other stores (our QA Engineer Jesus Ochoa would agree, he’s a huge fan of their Hijole Flavored Cheese Balls), another reason may be even more compelling: its stellar customer service.
In July 2018, Forbes consulted the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) to gain clarity on which companies provided the best customer service in the country. Out of all the companies in their index, HEB took the seventh spot. The ACSI stated that the Texas chain has been growing “quietly” but has quickly become “one of the biggest and most popular private grocers in the United States.” According to the group, customers enjoy the combination of high quality produce at low prices, which makes it easy to provide families with nourishing food.
When it comes to customer service specifically, there are three key aspects that HEB gets right:
1. Enhanced Employee Support
The quality of your customer service undoubtedly depends on the performance of your employees on the front line. That’s why it’s absolutely necessary that your employees feel cared for, respected, and empowered in the workplace. Forbes contributor Micah Solomon writes that it’s important to ensure your employees aren’t constantly worried about what they’re doing wrong or how they’ll be fired on the job. He says “oppressive corporate messaging” and stress can not only result in diminished communications with customers, but it can also erode your employees’ creativity and flexibility while on the job.
HEB has been working hard to keep its employees happy. In 2017, Glassdoor named HEB the 20th Best Place to Work. It’s easy to see why. Just two years prior, the grocer made a major investment in its employees: it gave 55,000 employees an equity stake in the company. The store gave “an estimated 15 percent of the company’s shares to employees over 21 years old who have worked at least a year…and clocked at least 1,000 hours in a calendar year” according to the New York Times. CEO Craig Boyan said the move was meant to increase employee loyalty, boost long-term financial stability, and recognize employees for what they’ve done for the company.
Undoubtedly, empowering your employees–whether financially or just by simplifying their workflow (Help.com can help you with this)–can be a major boost to employee performance and customer service.
2. Investment in Customer Happiness
On top of looking after your employees’ happiness, it’s just as important to take care of your customers, too. Here’s what Help.com’s employees love about HEB:
Claude McCracken, QA Engineer: “They’re big on Texas products. In their generics, they try to use Texas products, too. It’s one of the reasons I usually go with the HEB generic.”
Evan Lucas, CTO: “They always give Buddy Bucks to the kids. My kids love going to HEB. They have a machine that you put the Buddy Buck in like a dollar bill, and you press a big spin button, and you can win prizes. It’s really awesome for the kids.”
Jesus Ochoa, QA Engineer: “They have some awesome products. Plus they helped out with [Hurricane] Harvey.”
Raquel Guarino, Content Strategist: “Every time I go into HEB, there are always free samples of food. Whether it’s fresh sushi, ice cream, or cookies. I’ve even won free meals. Stuff like that lets me know HEB appreciates me as a customer.”
3. Understanding and Uplifting the Community
One of the most impactful things HEB does to bolster its reputation as a customer service leader is understanding the needs of its community. As our QA Engineer Jesus mentioned, HEB played a major role in helping out when things got rough during Hurricane Harvey. Days after the hurricane made landfall on the Texas coast, HEB announced they were donating $100,000 to hurricane relief efforts as well as starting a campaign to raise money based on customer donations. Additionally, the Texas chain brought in mobile kitchens and disaster relief units to storm-stricken areas, serving up to 2,500 hot meals an hour to victims and first responders. A month after the initial hit, HEB then donated one million dollars to Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts benefitting the Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Relief Fund.
Obviously, these efforts made a tremendous impact on their customers. For those in and around affected communities, HEB has established itself as a trustworthy store that deeply cares about its customers’ well-beings.