The late comedic and gifted actor Jackie Gleason often used the phrase, “How sweet it is.” This line popped into my mind as I began writing this column. As the star of the classic “The Honeymooners” TV show, Gleason delivered his catchphrase with great gusto, making sure that his enthusiasm would pique both the curiosity and full attention of his audience.
Over many years in this industry, I have found that gaining the attention of your customers is crucial to keeping them engaged with your brand. But while it’s of great importance to gain their attention, it is also absolutely critical that, once you have their loyalty, you deliver on your promise to meet their needs. For example, many YouTube viewers no longer take its video titles seriously because they so often fail to represent the video they are promoting.
In this case the “sweet” for those in the convenience store industry is the boost in business that naturally accompanies hot summer weather, such as increased beverage and snack sales, new ice cream and frozen sales and, of course, a greater interest in portable foodservice items. And, if you have delivered your message effectively, customers may take advantage of your car wash promotion while they are buying fuel. Simply put, executing properly means more traffic, which equates to more sales and more profits.
What’s Your Message?
While this may sound routine, it’s important to understand that to maximize sales and profits, you must fulfill the unwritten promise that every consumer demands —that loyalty is a two-way street. Accordingly, if your stores fail to deliver friendly service, cleanliness, a well-stocked inventory, up-to-date working equipment and competitive pricing, your summer — as well as the other seasons — are going to take a big hit. Each of the items is extremely important and requires daily effort to protect. Time is short, and the stakes are high, so let’s home in on improving where we can.
Friendliness, in my opinion, is the easiest winning characteristic to develop. It’s also the most important. For frontline employees, how hard is it to say with a smile and enthusiasm, “Thank you for your business,” “What else may I get you?” or at least a simple, “My pleasure”?
Don’t forget to train employees on how to suggestive sell the items your company has on promotion, and how to dress and act professionally. It is basic customer service, but you would be surprised how often I see companies miss the mark in this area. Make the investment of time and effort to lead your frontline team because they are the face of your brand. Other notable tips include having your employees stay off their cell phones. Texting and games should be done on their time, not when they are on the payroll. Customers will notice and appreciate the difference.
Cleanliness should NEVER be a problem, but it often is for many stores. Managers must be trained to start every day by looking at their store as if it were their own home. They should make notes on what needs improvement and follow through on assigning a cleaning schedule. Use praise for performance and don’t accept excuses. Remember, your foodservice program will never achieve its full potential with dirty restrooms or an unkempt store.
In terms of maintaining inventory, don’t forget to write down out-of-stock items as well as asked-for items that you presently don’t carry. See that all delivered inventory is unpacked, properly priced and placed in the right location. Similarly, make sure all out-of-order equipment is reported in a timely manner. Customers get frustrated and discouraged when they encounter nonworking toilets, fuel dispensers or credit card acceptors.
These are seemingly little things, but they all contribute to the success or failure of your business. Work hard to achieve your goals, feel pride in your brand and, most of all, enjoy the journey.
Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CStoreDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at [email protected]