The Customer Confidential Podcast
As an American and a foodie, stepping into a METRO warehouse instantly took my breath away. The size and scale of the international food-industry supplier’s store was matched only by its vast assortment of high-end food and equipment, as well as the striking and dramatic product displays.
Even more interesting were the variety of different shopping styles exhibited by the chefs and restaurant owners moving through the aisles. Some hurried business owners dashed about to stock up and return to their establishments. Other meticulous shoppers inspected each bunch of greens, fish, or cut of beef with precision and rigor, conversing with store staff about the freshest and tastiest items.
Whether rushing to fill a cart or carefully selecting each item, visiting METRO feels a bit like diving into a well-orchestrated culinary symphony, pleasing and satisfying to all the senses.
Peter Gries, METRO’s customer and sales officer, believes that understanding and catering to customers’ varied shopping styles is a vital ingredient in the company’s success recipe, which is steeped in customer-centricity and loyalty.
“For food lovers, it’s a paradise,” he says, painting a vivid picture of METRO’s ambience, with its impressive variety of vegetables, fish, meat, and more. Despite the warehouse-style store format, the staff are product connoisseurs and provide expert guidance to customers as they make their way through the various departments.
What sets METRO apart is the company’s fervent commitment to nurturing and uplifting its diverse clientele. “We cater to 1.5 million food service customers and, more or less, 800,000 small and independent mom-and-pop shops,” Peter shares.
He points out that the European food service industry wasn’t born out of large brands or chains. Instead, a huge array of smaller restaurants turn to trusted partners like METRO for their supplies. According to Peter, METRO devotes itself to aiding the survival and growth of these establishments, considering them crucial customer segments.
“You don’t want a standardized restaurant on every corner,” he asserts, illustrating his point with the importance of small establishments in Italy. “You want mamas in Italy cooking the local dishes with passion, with love.”
To tailor its service to fit these customers’ needs, METRO has evolved from a traditional cash-and-carry store to a versatile multichannel wholesaler. While this transformative journey has included its share of challenges, Peter explains that customer retention rate and share of wallet metrics have guided the organization’s decision making and strategy.
“We want to be relevant to these customer target groups. We want to be the partner. I don’t want to sell just three, four, five items,” Peter says. “I want to have a big share of wallet of these customers. I want to be the main supplier.”
In this episode, Peter and I delve into METRO’s customer-centric pivot and the valuable lessons gleaned during its transformative journey.
In the following excerpt, we explore how digital services promote customer engagement.
Peter: There are new ways of getting in touch with customers with digital services. We realized becoming a multichannel wholesaler or multicategory specialist with different products and solutions, transmitting this via people makes ourselves authentic.
You have this human, relationship-based element.
Rob: What are METRO’s primary success drivers?
Peter: If you build your value proposition, you better know your customer. We focus on our customers.
We work in a restaurant. We stand next to the chef and we understand their pain points. We understand how they cook, work, think, and make decisions.