Great Service Lands Employees Into Company Hall of Fame
August 29, 2006 | News & Press Releases
WEST DES MOINES, IA— Eight employees were honored with the Hy-Vee Legendary Customer Service Award in surprise ceremonies throughout the company’s operating region the week of September 11.
This is the first year for the program, established to recognize the rank-and-file workers who go above and beyond when it comes to taking care of customers. Winners are enshrined in the Hy-Vee Legendary Service Hall of Fame, established solely for award recipients.
Store directors and company officers worked together to plan the ceremonies while keeping the names a secret. Customers, friends and fellow employees surrounded the recipients when the announcements were made.
Hy-Vee Chairman of the Board Ric Jurgens said the first class of honorees is exactly what company officials had in mind when the program was established. “Through the years, our employees have made the name Hy-Vee synonymous with friendliness, caring and outstanding customer service,” he said. “This award honors the best of the best, and each of these individuals reminds all of us what it really means to serve the customer.”
Those honored are:
Theresa Bull, central pay station manager at Moline, has worked for the company for five years. She greets customers with a warm, friendly smile and a sparkle in her eye and knows most of her customers by name. She is patient, efficient and personable. Her service is so outstanding that customers seek her out to say hello even if they’re not eating in the casual dining area.
Customer Jon Laird, who nominated Bull, says her work ethic is a good example of how an employee can enhance the atmosphere of quality service. “Her attention to detail makes the difference between just another trip to Hy-Vee and actually looking forward to breakfast at Hy-Vee.”
Bull and her husband John have five children: Jason, Josh, Sara, Jake and Samantha. She lives in East Moline, Illinois.
George Detsios, a food demonstration clerk at Shawnee No. 1, is in his second career. For the majority of his work life, he was a cheese and sausage shop owner and well-known cook/caterer in the Kansas City area.
Everyone who meets Detsios affectionately describes him as the Hungarian character. His always upbeat personality shines through as he shares food samples and conversation with customers. He not only knows most everyone by name; he can tell you something about each of their families as well.
Many customers exclusively shop the Shawnee No. 1 store because of Detsios. One customer said it best when she wrote, “George is an icon in your store. He brings so much joy to something as simple as grocery shopping.”
Detsios, who speaks seven languages, still shares his passion for cooking as a celebrity chef at several Kansas City-area restaurants and teaches cooking classes as well.
Sonia Kiger, customer service manager at Yankton, is responsible for training all courtesy counter employees, which currently number 23. The 17-year employee is a very big reason why Yankton ranks as one of the best when it comes to customer service and care.
Yankton Store Director Brad Dykes describes Kiger as “a genuinely sensitive person who knows in all circumstances what to say and when to say it when dealing with customers and co-workers.” In addition, she varies her schedule to provide mentoring to employees on all shifts, organizes children’s games and coloring contests, honors employees on their birthdays and anniversaries, takes children on store tours and helps decorate for store events.
Kiger was nominated for the award by coworkers Tracy Huff and Sarah Mellem. She and her husband Matt live in Irene, S.D., and have two sons, Ethan and Samuel.
Bob Lewis, front end manager at Marshalltown, has practiced the core fundamentals that this award symbolizes throughout his 28 years with Hy-Vee: honesty, integrity, friendliness, and of course, a passion to do anything for a customer. His genuine love of people and eagerness to serve others make him an unsuspecting mentor to other employees.
Shoppers rely on Lewis’ big smile and friendly demeanor every time they enter the store, and he does not disappoint. No matter what the task, he approaches it eagerly and finishes it quickly. Store Director Ric Anderson describes Lewis as the face of Hy-Vee in Marshalltown. “Bob was raised on the Hy-Vee spirit and understands that customer service is the cornerstone of our philosophy.”
He was nominated for the award by coworkers Eric Osgood and Paul Hoppman, who say Lewis’ peers “admire him for his ethics and his zest for life.”
Lewis and his wife Peggy have twin daughters, April and Ashley.
Roger Maharry has been a pharmacist at Ames Drugstore for 20 years, 15 of those as a pharmacy manager and leader. His customer service skills are exemplary. He is always in a good mood, patiently answers questions and never makes a customer feel rushed, no matter how busy he is. He treats customers first as friends, then as shoppers.
The company receives many letters about Maharry – about accompanying a customer to the parking lot to say hello to an ailing relative, about tracking down medicines his pharmacy doesn’t carry, about checking with customers to be sure they’re experiencing no bad reactions to their medications.
Kevin Gifford, former Ames Drugstore director, nominated Maharry for the award and Amy Jordahl, current director, says it didn’t take long to see that he is the consummate professional, very knowledgeable and experienced. “But more than his know-how, customers appreciate the genuine concern he has for their health and well-being.”
Maharry and his wife Jeanie have four children – Greg, Doug, Julie and Jill – and 12 grandchildren.
Missy Petty, consumer information coordinator, has been with Hy-Vee for 23 years and works at the Chariton Distribution Center.
The consumer information line was started 13 years ago, and Petty has built the position from the ground up, earning the respect and trust of customers, suppliers and coworkers alike.
Sometimes Petty has to deal with customers who angrily voice their frustrations or complaints, and it is in these cases that she is a true Hy-Vee ambassador. Petty’s voice exudes patience and compassion and she has a calming influence on disgruntled customers. Her supervisor, Shelley Haberkorn, says Petty “does whatever it takes to turn a customer’s bad experience into a positive one, from the first call in the morning to the last call at night.”
Petty also maintains Hy-Vee’s list of gluten-free products on the Web site and e-mails customers with gluten-intolerant family members each time new products are added. The gluten-free list is one of the most popular destinations on the company’s site, averaging 1,000 downloads a month.
Petty lives in Clio, Iowa, with her husband Clarence and three children: Katie, Julie and Tom.
Joey Smith, manager of perishables at Rochester No. 2, is known as “Mr. Hy-Vee” in Rochester and it’s no surprise. He is passionate about his job and it shows. In fact, it’s hard not to get caught up in Smith’s enthusiasm. People immediately warm up to the man who’s always smiling and who knows just about everyone in Rochester.
Customers come into the store and ask if Smith is working just so they can say hi. They know when he asks about their families, he’s not asking just to ask; he really wants to know. If something goes wrong, either at the store or in the community, Smith is the first person there to see how he can help.
He was nominated by fellow employee Cindy Andrist, who says she’s lost count of the number of times Smith has gone out of his way for a customer. “Whether it’s making a last-minute delivery, loading Christmas trees on cars, helping customers find their keys, locating product or calling cabs, he’s always right there.”
Smith lives in Rochester with his wife Becky and three children: Diana, Brandon and Aaron.
Rachele Weiler, a checker at Lincoln No. 1, was a cosmetologist for 25 years before deciding she needed a change. Since she loves people, Hy-Vee was a logical choice for career number two.
Customers are simply drawn to Weiler. Her red hair is as bright as her smile. She has an elephant’s memory for names and displays great compassion for people. Store Director Darren Baty doesn’t even try to get customers to move out of Weiler’s line if she gets backed up; shoppers patiently wait, saying they need to be “Rachelized” to make their day complete.
There are six “Cs” to Weiler’s customer service – care, character, charisma, creativity, credibility and communication. One customer wrote, “Rachele is my favorite checker in the whole entire world. If I lived in Bangkok, Thailand, I would [still shop at a Hy-Vee] where Rachele was.”
Rachel has two sons, Clayton Johnson and Paul Johnson, and two grandchildren.
In addition to the Hall of Fame induction, each recipient will receive a special award, a Legendary Customer Service name badge, a custom-designed ring and other honors. The group will be featured on the panel of a Hy-Vee semi-trailer and each will be introduced at his or her area’s service award dinner in October. The seven dinners honor employees for longevity of service in five-year increments, from five to 45 years.
Hy-Vee Inc. is an employee-owned corporation operating 225 retail stores in seven Midwestern states. In 2005 the company recorded $4.9 billion in sales, ranking it among the top 20 supermarket chains and the top 35 private companies in the United States.