Jason Redd prides himself in knowing about everything that goes on at the Hy-Vee Food Store on Fleur Drive in Des Moines..

The 42-year-old has worked there almost continuously since he was 14.

But Redd was taken by surprise in late August when he was honored in a ceremony at the store, during which he received one of nine Legendary Customer Service Awards handed out by company officials this year. The West Des Moines-based grocery chain has more than 85,000 employees.

The award recognizes employees for their exemplary achievement in providing service that exceeds customers’ expectations.

“To think that they coordinated that event and I had no idea what was going on kind of blows my mind,” said Redd, who has spent much of his 27-year career working at the company’s store at 4605 Fleur Drive. “My family members and friends all did a good job of keeping it quiet.” 

Candidates for the award are nominated by co-workers, and winners are selected by a panel of Hy-Vee’s top officers. Nominations are evaluated on the employee’s overall contributions to the company in nine areas: passion for customer service, attitude, initiative, teamwork, problem-solving skills, dedication to Hy-Vee fundamentals, communication skills, professional image and self-confidence.

“Jason lives out the things Hy-Vee stands for in everything he does while providing helpful and dedicated service to our customers,” Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee’s chairman, CEO and president, said in a prepared statement. 

Redd and this year’s other eight winners will be inducted into Hy-Vee’s Customer Service Hall of Fame. They also will receive a trophy, a ring and a trip of their choice, and their photos will be displayed on the side of Hy-Vee’s semitrailer trucks.

Redd said that if he can take the trip after the travel worries related to the pandemic subside, he’d like to go to Germany and other parts of Europe. “There’s train rides you can take so you can visit multiple places in a short amount of time,” he said. “I think that’s something I’d like to do.”

We recently caught up with Redd. 

 

When did you start working at Hy-Vee?

My mom [Connie] has always told the story that when we used to come here and grocery shop at the store, that I would tell her, “I either want to be a fireman or I want to work at Hy-Vee.” I guess the Hy-Vee part worked out. … I started when I was 14; I was just out of junior high and … I was able to get a job. A neighbor from up the street who worked at Hy-Vee helped me get an interview at this store just as a part-time job, helping sack groceries, sorting bottles and things like that. 

At the time, I thought it’s just going to be … a temporary high school job, a way to make some extra cash. ... It just progressed from there. I enjoyed what I was doing. I kept getting asked to try new things and do different things in different positions. It bloomed into a career.


Talk about your work progression.

I started out part time in 1993 and was hired full time about 17 years ago. I was hired as a front-end assistant manager. I helped run the front end, managing employees up front and doing some stocking and coordinating in the back.


Have you always worked at the store on Fleur Drive?

I’ve worked here except for a short time when I went up to the Ankeny store. I worked there for about a year and then another position opened here and I decided to come back. I missed my store; I missed my customers and the employees I worked with.


Why stay at Hy-Vee so long? 

I never really had a reason to look elsewhere. They have always worked with me as far as training and learning new things. They have a lot of programs that I’ve taken; I’ve taken some Dale Carnegie courses. I eventually realized that I needed to look at this as more of a career than a part-time job. 

As far as Hy-Vee goes, there’s just so many different areas of expertise that you can get into, be it marketing or buying or accounting. … Even if I decided that I didn’t like the retail side of things, there were other opportunities available within the company. That’s what led me to stick with Hy-Vee.

I love the retail side of things. I love being able to be on the floor and working with customers. I get a little bit of office time, too. It’s a nice balance for me.


What does receiving the Legendary Customer Service Award mean to you? 

To be selected as somebody who they feel has gone above and beyond, shown exceptional customer service and job skills, that means a lot to me. I don’t take that lightly at all. There are many people out there deserving of the award, so it’s quite an honor to be chosen.


Talk about why customer service is so important in the retail setting.

Hy-Vee has always been about good customer service. In this day and age, when you can buy your groceries online or use Amazon … there has to be something that sets us out apart from the rest of that competition. Customer service is one of the best ways for us to be able to do that. Forming that relationship with the customers that I see here every day means a lot to me. I get to know them, just from short conversations like finding out if they’re taking a vacation. ...  Just having that connection helps me enjoy my job more and helps them to enjoy their shopping experience more.

With everything that’s going on now – the pandemic and other things – it’s more important than ever to create that relationship and show that they have a safe place to shop as well as a friendly place.


What advice would you give someone on the best ways to provide good customer service?

I enjoy speaking with people. It is pretty easy for me to say “hello” and strike a conversation with somebody. I think that’s the biggest part – just taking the time to stop and have a conversation with somebody … go that extra mile.


How did your job change during the start of the pandemic?

It became more stressful, that’s for sure. We had to make sure that we were providing a safe environment for all of the customers that were coming in. We were making sure we were always keeping things clean and taking the right precautions to keep our employees safe. When the restaurants were shut down, we were very, very busy. We were busier at the end of March than we were during some holidays, and it just kept going. 


Where do you see yourself in five years?

I really enjoy what I do right now – being assistant manager of store operations. I have the opportunity to be a part of the big picture of the store, from buying, [helping determine the] layout of the store, doing some pricing and displays. I like the mix of being on the floor and working with customers and the other employees. … I don’t know that I want – right now, anyway – to get into a job where I have more desk time. Maybe later. … Hy-Vee is opening a lot of Fast & Fresh stores that have a smaller format. They are doing a lot of hiring for managers. That might be something in the future I would consider.


What do you do in your spare time? 

I enjoy cooking. When I need to wind down at night, preparing dinner, for me, is relaxing and calming. It’s something I enjoy doing. … I love making a good steak on the grill. In the fall season, I look forward to making different casseroles and comfort foods.