Exploring the Customer Experience

A Letter from the Co-op General Manager

To our cooperative community,

Recently a Co-op employee shared an email with me in which she listed several items she found while cleaning the shopping carts and parking areas of one of our stores. The list included 7 disposable gloves, 3 masks, a pair of black work gloves, and dozens of paper towels left behind in shopping carts. While the vast majority of our members and shoppers are highly respectful and adhere to our shopper code of conduct, her email was a reminder to me that there is always more work to be done.

The email was well-timed too, in that it speaks to customer experience, a topic that has been on my mind over the past few weeks. Customer experience encompasses everything, from the cleanliness of a parking area to the availability of products within our stores. My team and I have put a lot of attention into this subject, and I am writing to you today because I want you to be part of this process too.

As part of our planning process for 2021, the topic of customer experience is front and center. Clearly, this is a far-reaching subject that drives everything we do. At the end of the day, this is why we are all here. If the customer defines his or her experience as nothing more than a place to buy food, then certainly I believe we are doing that. But if the experience he or she desires is much more than that—deeper, multilayered, and more nuanced—then that is rich ground for discussion about how we can best care for the communities we serve, both now and moving forward. 

We have just begun this process, utilizing customer survey data from our Member Services team. Because this is an important initiative, I wanted to tell you more about it. I would also ask that each of you give the topic your consideration. 

I want to know what you think. This high-level discussion is global in many respects, crossing everything we do and will benefit from the input of many voices.  

Why does this matter? From the smallest group to the largest company, an organization needs to understand its purpose and goals. If not, it is far too easy to put energy and effort into activities that may be noble and worthwhile, but ultimately does not help the organization achieve what it is setting out to do. Exploring an organization’s foundational purpose, the experience it aims to provide, takes time and concentrated effort. This goes way beyond stating what we do. Rather, it involves teasing out why we do what we do, is it what we should do, and are we doing it the best way possible. This can seem abstract at first, but by contrast it is quite pragmatic. The effort can be challenging but it helps to crystalize how best to be organized for the opportunities ahead of us.  

Next week the leadership team will begin a critical assessment of our perspective of who we are and how our perspective compares to our customers’ perspective of us. We will then discuss where we want and need to be to deliver the experience customers seek from our Co-op. In the meantime, I would like to know from you: What do you expect from us in terms of an experience? What should you expect? This will help add context to our discussion, so reach out to me and share what is on your mind. 

In the meantime, to all of our members, thank you as always for your support. Remember to be kind to one another and to yourselves. Stay strong, stay healthy, and stay positive. We look forward to serving you in our stores and at the curbside.

Onward and upward,


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Paul Guidone

Paul Guidone, CFA, spent the better part of four decades in the investment management business here and abroad. He held positions ranging from analyst through Deputy Chairman and Group CEO, at organizations such as Citigroup (US) and The HSBC Group (London and Hong Kong). He joined the Co-op in 2016 as the CFO and in 2018 became Strategic Advisor to the General Manager. Paul was appointed by the Co-op Board as interim General Manager in March 2020 and General Manager in September 2020. To contact, email PGuidone@coopfoodstore.com.

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