Irving Oil developed the “Irving Promise” as a guide to reinforce theimportance of doing whatever it takes to simplify the lives of its customersthroughout its network, including its newly reimaged Bluecanoe stores (see MakingOver Mainway, p. 18).
As part of that promise, the Portsmouth, NH-based company implemented Motorola headsets that team members use to facilitate on-site communication. An average-size store might have three employees per shift wearing headsets. Larger stores, such as a travel center-sized store in New England, could have as many as eight employees donning the tech-heavy headgear.
“It might save three seconds here or there, but those seconds add up,” says Ben Bolen, an area manager for Irving Oil. “When customers see we’re doing everything in our power to address their needs and make them happy, they’re more likely to come back and visit us again.”
Never satisfied with its performance, Irving Oil is using other technologies to facilitate its policy of continuous improvement. For example, the company has launched an initiative called “Voice of the Customer,” which is a customerdriven mechanism that gathers constant, site-specific feedback and feeds the information directly to the stores.
“This feedback mechanism is built around random customer invitations on oursales receipts,” says Irving Oil Senior Brand Manager Tim Guen. “Every X numberof receipts has a statement on the back telling the customer that we’d loveto get their feedback and asks them to please call a toll-free number. It takesthe customer through series of prompts; we have a core of standard questions,and sometimes we add a few depending on what’s going on in the stores. It takesfive minutes for the customer to complete, and it earns them a coupon for theirnext purchase at an Irving store.”
Store-specific feedback gets played back verbatim for the corresponding store manager. Managers learn of customer satisfaction and gather ideas on how to improve everything from the freshness of sandwiches in the merchandisers to the cleanliness of the washrooms.
“Voice of the Customer helped us go to larger airpots for the coffee barand that’s just one example,” says Guen. “[The larger airpots from FETCO] cameabout through a combination of employee feedback and customers expressing thatas a want. If customers could get fresh coffee more often and employees didn’thave to brew coffee as often while lifting our sales, there are definitely someadvantages there.”
Bill Donahue, Editor