Best Practices in Client Experience Strategy: The Container Store

The Container Store, a retail business that specializes in storage and organizational products, has made Fortune‘s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For in America” each year for the past 12 years.  At the heart of its continued success is its “employees-first culture” in place since the Texas-based chain opened its first store in 1978.

The “putting employees first” philosophy adopted by the company is simple, yet unorthodox in the industry.  Most businesses place their focus and priority on the shareholders and customers, but The Container Store believes that if you take care of employees first and make them your highest priority, everything else will fall in place.  Employees, who are well taken care of and engaged, will in turn, take great care of customers, and that will inevitably take care of the business and shareholders. 

Evidence of this philosophy can be found in some of the programs and benefits described below:

  • The company pays sales associates up to $46,000, more than double the average wage for retail workers. Salaries are individualized and take into account each employee’s unique background, contribution and potential impact on the company’s growth.
  • The company offers health care benefits for all employees, including part-time ones. 
  • Employees at each store use “the huddle,” as it’s officially called, twice a week for 10 minutes, before or after the start of business, for everything from discussing operations to getting fired up about sales. These huddles have evolved into a very effective all-purpose communication tool.
  • Employees celebrating 20 years of tenure with the company are awarded with two, round-trip airline tickets to any location in the U.S., plus $1,000 in spending money.  In addition, full-time employees get an extra week off for their travels.

With all of these extraordinary benefits and unique programs focused at pleasing the employee, it is understandable that many seek out employment with the company.  Job candidates who are looking to become happy employees of the company must want to do the job, have the ability to do the job, and be able to be managed on the job. It is these main attributes that position a candidate to provide a great customer experience.  The Container Store’s success with its employees is no secret as many of its common practices can be found within the Frequently Asked Questions – Careers section of the company’s website.  Below are a few of the important steps in establishing employee happiness, which The Container Store has perfected since its establishment in 1978. 

Hire the right employees – Hiring is a difficult task for most companies because it involves finding people who will do the job well.   For a good source of employment candidates, The Container Store gets creative and taps into its pool of loyal customers who are already passionate about the products.  For people with trustworthy references, employee networking and referrals are also used by The Container Store for potential candidates.

Provide extensive training – During the first year of employment alone, The Container Store invests 260+ hours of formal training for each full-time salesperson.  And, training by no means stops after the first year since ongoing training is very important for continued growth.  After their first year at The Container Store, full-time salespeople receive an average of 160 hours of training annually.  This is definitely unique for the industry since the average retailer invests only 8 hours of training annually for its sales force.  The Container Store understands that a large investment in training will pay for itself given that the sales force will have the knowledge they need to provide topnotch customer service.

Promote an employee-first culture – The Container Store comes up with many innovative ways to recognize its employees.  Everything from bonuses to tenure programs is in place to make employees feel special.  “National We Love Our Employees Day” was initiated in 2010 on Valentine’s Day to show appreciation to The Container Store’s employees; week-long recognition, festivities, goody boxes, t-shirts, and even a thank-you letter published in The New York Times listing every single employees’ names are all part of this new holiday celebration. 

The benefits of keeping employees happy are invaluable as described in “Top 10 reasons why happiness at work is the ultimate productivity booster” by Alexander Kjerulf.  Kjerulf is a speaker, consultant and author who presents and conducts workshops on happiness at work in businesses and conferences all over the world.  Provided below are some of the important reasons why happiness at work is the #1 productivity booster:

  • Happy people work better with others
  • Happy people have more energy
  • Happy people are way more motivated
  • Happy people learn faster
  • Happy people fix problems instead of complaining about them

Customer service is definitely a key factor to the success of the banking industry.  To increase or maintain high customer satisfaction, The Container Store’s philosophy demonstrates that it could be as simple as directing efforts to improve or ensure job satisfaction for employees.  For bank representatives, this means that smiling and greeting customers would not be executed as part of a checklist but instead sincere gestures made by happy employees.   Genuine service behaviors delivered by excellent employees is a significant factor in providing exceptional customer service.