Spinach (1) “Where’s the spinach? There’s gotta be spinach.”

This is what was going through my mind as I went back and forth through the produce section at my local Whole Foods. It was Sunday afternoon, a day when it was almost always crowded. I didn’t mean to find myself there on a Sunday, but my Saturday had taken a different turn. After the guy working in the produce section confirmed that there indeed appeared to be no more spinach, I went about the rest of my shopping a little deflated.Ugh. Now, I’m going to have to go to another grocery store to get some spinach.

Normally, having spinach wouldn’t be that big a deal, but I had just been inspired to make salmon stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. I had seen it on display in the fish section, and had already gotten two pieces of salmon to try the masterpiece on my own.

After resolving myself to having to make another stop, I found myself passing through the salad bar, and to my delight I saw some spinach! Yippee! So I got a container and cleaned the salad bar out of the last bit of spinach remaining.

“I know this is a little bootleg, but oh well. This should be enough!”

When I got to the check-out counter I was still on a high from my spinach score (sometimes the littlest things bring me joy!). When the young lady ringing up my groceries asked if I found everything ok, I casually mentioned how I couldn’t find any spinach in the produce section and that I had to get some from the salad bar.

She instantly apologized, acknowledged how crazy Sunday’s can be, and then proceeded to delight me. For my “trouble” she gave me the spinach for free. Sweet! As I thought about that encounter on the way home, I couldn’t help but smile. This employee heard a challenge that one of her customers had experienced in the store. Although, in my mind the situation had been resolved, it wasn’t good enough for her.

What I loved most is that she was empowered to make things right for me on her own. Instantly. She didn’t have to call over a manager for approval. I didn’t have to ask for anything. She heard me casually mention a problem, and she made things better.

This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten an item for free at Whole Foods because something didn’t happen so smoothly. Months back, at a different store something happened that I happened to mention to the clerk after being asked if I found everything ok. Whatever the issue was at this point was so insignificant I don’t even remember. But I do remember that the clerk was empowered to make things better. And she did. Instantly. Without having to call a manager over for approval. Without me having to ask.

Life happens. And in your business, there may be times when things may not go exactly as planned which may result in a less than optimal customer experience. But as with many things, what your customers will remember most is how you made them feel. I felt valued as a customer by the Whole Foods employees. They made me feel like nothing less than a stellar experience was good enough for me.

The key lesson for me with regard to these Whole Foods experiences is all about true commitment to a positive customer experience. Every time I go through the check out line at one of their stores I am asked if I found everything to be ok. Most of the time the answer is yes, but when there have been minor issues that’s where the store has really shined. They actually cared to know the answer to the question. They could have easily just said “sorry to hear that,” but each time there has been immediate action to right a “wrong.”

And because they seem to be so committed to a positive customer experience, each employee has a level of authority to ensure the customer’s experience is a good one. Proactively.

What does commitment to the customer experience look like for you? As you go about building your business, what is the feeling you want your customers to have after interacting with you? What do you do to make a situation right, if you ever find that a customer’s experience fell below your expectations? Are the people on your team empowered to delight your customers whenever they see an opportunity?

(By the way, that salmon stuffed with spinach and feta came out great. It was delicioso!)