WHOLE FOODS CEO: We focused on employees at the 'expense of our customers'

Whole FoodsWhole Foods/FacebookLife is about to get better for Whole Foods customers.

Over the years, critics of Whole Foods sardonically coined the nickname “Whole Paycheck,” highlighting the steep prices of its high-end, organic fare.

In the wake of the company’s merger with Amazon, it seems Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is ready to improve its relationship with customers.

In a town hall meeting last Friday, the day it was announced that Amazon had bought the organic grocer for $US13.7 billion, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey acknowledged that his company had prioritised employees at the expense of customers — a trend that he says will change after the merger.

In response to a question about how Whole Foods’ relationship with various stakeholders would change following the marriage to Amazon, Mackey said that the company would evolve to match Amazon’s relentless focus on customers.

Here’s Mackey (emphasis ours):

“One of the things they do better than us, they are more customer-centric than we are. They really are. And one of my takeaways is that, by God, we’re gonna become as customer-centric as Amazon. We’re gonna — we’re gonna — we’re gonna import their passion about that.

“Because I think, sometimes, our company’s gone a little bit too much team member focus at the expense of our customers. And that’s one definite evolution that’s gonna happen. I love the passion these guys have around the customer. They put the customer first in everything they do and think backwards. And — we — we’re gonna be the same way.

“We’re — we’re — we’re — we do care about our customers. So don’t misunderstand me. I just feel like there’s an opportunity for us to learn from them and do — and do even better. But th — they care about their team — their team members, their suppliers, their investors. I mean, by every — by every objective measurement, they’re, like, top of the class in every single way. They are a tremendous company that — has so much to teach us. And I’m, for one, gonna be an eager — eager pupil.”

Mackey isn’t saying its nearly 90,000 employees are about to take a hit, but he’s been very frank that there will be changes. He said at the town hall that they had hired Boston Consulting Group to help Whole Foods trim $US300 million in costs.

“I don’t want people goin’ away, thinkin’ that nothin’s gonna change around here. ‘Cause things are gonna change. There’s just no question about that,” Mackey said.

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