Customer care is key to students’ Stew Leonard’s visit

Students from the Gabelli school's Ground Floor program visit Stew Leonard's grocery store in Yonkers.

Students from the Gabelli school’s Ground Floor program visit Stew Leonard’s grocery store in Yonkers.

By Kate Marinkovich

How does a local supermarket survive and thrive in a competitive environment?

For Stew Leonard’s, a small grocery store chain, the keys are exceptional care of employees and excellent customer service.

As the Fordham University Gabelli School of Business Ground Floor class learned last week, these two practices go hand in hand. Stew Leonard’s, the students were told, believes that if they take care of their employees, their employees will take care of the customers. This belief was evident as the class toured the store and heard from employees and supervisors first-hand about how the company operates.

On Wednesday, Dr. Janet DiLorenzo’s class went on a field trip to Stew Leonard’s Yonkers store to find out how the grocery market operates and how these operations have contributed to the company’s success. The lessons were vital to Ground Floor students, who must work in teams to create their own unique business plan.

The Ground Floor teaches business principles, such as marketing and management, not only in the classroom, but outside as well. Field trips augment what is learned in the class, providing real-world examples upon which students can build.

The first thing visible when walking into Stew Leonard’s is a giant stone engraved with the company’s two rules: first, the customer is always right, and second, if the customer is ever wrong, reread rule one.

Stew Leonard’s, the Fordham students were told, is all about the customer. It seeks to create a unique customer experience with the store’s maze-like layout, along with animatronics and entertainment. The company offers customers multiple outlets to give feedback and uses this feedback to amend its service to the customer’s needs. Also, the company emphasizes the freshness of its products.

Stew Leonard’s aims to serve its employees as well as its customers, store representatives said. The company fosters career development through scholarship and tuition reimbursement programs for employees who decide to enroll in management school. This type of nurturing environment encourages people to stay with the company, the students’ tour guides said.

Stew Leonard’s also tries to keep employees within their area of expertise, guides said. This practice enhances the employees’ experience, which enhances the customers’ experience as well.

Gabelli School students who went on the field trip came away with an understanding of how good management can result in an effective product—sound business lessons that will add to their Ground Floor education.

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