By John Lofstock, Editor
From great corners, clean restrooms and modern facilities to fresh food and a wide selection of popular snacks, convenience stores are committed to delivering outstanding service.
This commitment is evident in the industry’s growing sales numbers at a time when other retail channels are struggling to break even.
This service-driven culture is the industry’s foundation and it must continue to dominate your training programs and drive your recruiting efforts when you’re looking for your next great brand ambassador.
Customers have shown—with their wallets and in focus groups—that price is relatively low on the list of reasons why they shop a convenience store. They want a friendly smile when they walk in the door, a clean store and a genuine sense that you appreciate their business. In other words, they want to feel respected. After all, would you continue to shop at a store that didn’t show you the respect you deserve?
Regardless of a great price or a convenient location, you know deep down you wouldn’t. Why would you expect your customers to act differently?
To succeed, a company must have people with formally assigned roles working together to accomplish the organization’s goals. According to human resources managers, managing these roles involves five principles: planning, organizing, staffing, leading and controlling. Having these principles in place helps you meet your end goal: serving customers.
Satisfying Loyal Customers
The Pareto Principle states that 80% of a store’s sales come from 20% of its customers. This means to keep customers returning, operators must take all the necessary steps to keep this core group of customers loyal to their stores.
The easiest, and possibly the most affordable, way to build customer loyalty is to provide outstanding service. Let’s face it; delivering top-notch service has never been more important. Between rising unemployment rates and the stagnant economy, consumers’ discretionary spending is much more selective, creating significant competitive challenges for retailers and suppliers alike.
The ability to maintain a loyal customer base requires customer-centric strategies in collaboration with suppliers. It’s no secret that when store sales increase, everyone wins. To give you an idea of just how important the retail environment is, customer service experts seem to agree no matter what customers say they want, what they’re really looking for is something special. They can’t quite describe it, but when they find it, they know.
Those little details of the buying experience may appear intangible. But what brands you sell and price is usually less important to customers than a great shopping experience.
Other tips for generating loyal, repeat customers include:
Treat them well. People simply want to be treated with respect and fairness. They want to feel like valued customers, whose time and opinions matter. If people can’t trust you to treat them right, they certainly won’t trust you with their money.
Provide an efficient buying process. From start to end, did each step of the sale go smoothly? Could the buyers get the answers or help they needed? Could they find what they came for? Were prices and payment options clear and easy to deal with?
Eliminate aggravation. A buyer is willing to endure a little inconvenience, such as a line during rush hour, but not for long and not every time. Your job is to minimize inconveniences, not treat them like business as usual.
Walt Disney said, “Do what you do so well that people want to bring their friends to see you do it again.” This should be more than a timeless classic from a great salesman. Make it your next great challenge. Examine your brand beginning with your people and how you treat them, then consider how you can elevate your performance to drive a steady stream of new and repeat customers. When you do, they will be your best brand ambassadors and that, ultimately, is how your business will grow.