Received this week from Steven A. Burd, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Office of Safeway, in response to a faxed copy of a recent issue of FreshMeat.

Dear Mr. Portigal:

Thank you for suggesting that we use some of the new software that translates text into speech, in conjunction with our ongoing customer service initiatives. We appreciate your interest as a good customer whose name has been mispronounced occasionally by our clerks.

It’s an interesting idea, one we have considered before – but using voice recognition technology, the opposite of what you propose. To be honest, we haven’t pursued this since our initial research, because the applications available at the time were expensive, slow and ineffectual. Whjile we have similar concers about the technology you mentioned, our industrial engineers may wish to visit the two web sites cited in your newsletter.

Meanwhile, we’ll review our stores in your area to be sure any employees who are having difficulty thanking customers by name receive redmedial training. If our clerks are unsure of how a name is pronounced, they are to ask the customers. Admittedly, this is a low-tech solution, but it seems to work well.

Thanks again, Mr. Portigal. We value your constructive criticism, and the friendly spirit in which it is offered.


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