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Six Sigma Case Study: Whole Foods

Whole Foods stands out from many other large grocery store chains. Their business model sets them apart from the competition, as they stock only organic food with no artificial ingredients like colors or additives. Any that do appear are all naturally occurring, which, for countless discerning customers, is highly important. These days, customers care about eating and living healthily more than ever. But what’s the secret to Whole Food’s success? Six Sigma.

It’s a fact that organic food doesn’t last like non-organic, and tends to be quite expensive at times. Whole Foods started off when the organic food market was much smaller and has ridden the wave of increasing demand ever since. They took advantage of a naturally-occurring monopoly and have dramatically increased their market presence for maximum profitablity. Today, we cover how the grocery store chain took the country by storm by offering unique, healthy products. And all with a dash of Six Sigma.

 

Minimal Interference and Flexible Management

Whole Foods is a customer-driven organization. Using Design for Six Sigma, they rely on feedback to help shape their business processes. As such, the customer’s voice is a primary metric for improvement, but just as important is the process data itself. The axis of their corporate structure is a single golden rule: minimal interference. Store managers, like Six Sigma practitioners, are change agents. The company ensures minimal corporate meddling, allowing managers to make changes for the good of their store. The needs of a busy urban branch do not reflect the needs of a small-town store. As such, both should be managed appropriately, according to their needs. Management flexibility of this kind grants them the freedom to source local produce as well as to operate under different hours.

 

The Customer Matters

As a customer-facing, retail-oriented corporation, Whole Foods relies on strong customer relationships. By collecting customer feedback at the store level, they can shed light on problems affecting quality, efficiency, and productivity.  Whole Foods stores provide a Customer Comments Wall for those wanting to offer feedback, encouraging customers to have their say. This level of customer engagement is highly beneficial, not just for the valuable feedback it provides, but also for the strong store-customer relationship it fosters. In short, it shows Whole Foods care about those frequenting their stores and purchasing their goods.

Each comments wall allows customers to leave both positive and negative comments. While it may seem simplistic, this approach helps to foster transparency, openness, and honesty between store and customer. Customers value and respond to this, as Whole Foods have shown. Providing a place to leave feedback lays the groundwork for a continuous improvement culture. One that drives improvement for the sake the customer, without end. Never forget. Any feedback, critical or otherwise, is extremely valuable. Even the smallest comment can help you make dramatic changes on the path toward Six Sigma.

 

Happy Employees = Happy Customers

Moreover, this openness also benefits Whole Food’s staff. All employees want to feel like they matter. They’re people, after all, not mindless automatons. They want to feel that their voices are heard and that they play an active role in the success of the company. Remember, the happier your employees, the happier your customers. If you can’t keep the first happy, the second will feel it.

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