the power of one

One manager, one employee or idea can make a difference in customers’ lives.

Some psychologists say that every day, more of us feel less effectivethan we used to feel. Even relatively minor things, such as trying to get througha voice mail system so you can talk to a real live person when you have a problemwith a bill can make you feel miniscule. Natural disasters like Hurricane Katrinaillustrate all too clearly just how rapidly the control we think we have overour homes and lives can vanish—and feeling as if what we do isn’t importantgets easier.

Yet the power of one is as strong today as it ever was, maybe even more so. One manager, one employee or one idea can change things for the people who work and shop at any convenience store in the country. The truth is that what each of us does is very important. Every one of our interactions with others has the potential to create positive or negative experiences.

Just take a look at these real-life examples of how one person made a positive difference:

  • When Wallis Oil Co. Inc. (Cuba, MO/44 stores) first began offering freeSpeedpasses—those small plastic key chains that allow customers to purchasegas at the pump without pulling out cash or a credit card—Wallis AssistantStore Manager Eric Lewis took it upon himself to let people know. Twice aweek for the next month, Lewis spent several hours explaining the benefitsto customers in Wallis’s store parking lots. He traveled all over town doingthis, and signed up more than 300 Wallis customers—every one of whomappreciated his efforts. There was no other prize or bonus involved. “I justdecided to do it, so I did it” Lewis says. “I love talking with people, beinginvolved with them.”

  • Shortly after Town & Country Food Stores (San Angelo, TX/140 stores)began offering soft drinks made in Mexico, the company found that few of itsmany Hispanic customers bought them. The products are very popular in Mexicoand were given good visual spots in the store, so T & C Store ManagerDebbie Russell decided that boosting sales called for stronger measures. Sheand her employees called their vendors together and put on a drink samplingin the parking lot complete with hot air balloons. When customers bought oneof these products the store threw in another one for free, and Mexican drinksales have soared.
  • When Kathryn Shoultz, store managerfor Amerada Hess Corp. (Woodbridge, NJ/1,308stores) took over a new store at the beginning of 2005, she immediately noticedthat the store had few loyal customers, so she began offering a Hess loyalty-cardto every customer.

Shoultz, who describes herself as ” running a Mom-and-Pop store for a billion dollar company,” says she decided to make a big fuss over the first customer who filled out a card and was eligible for a free cup of coffee. “It started out as a little party,” Shoultz says. “I got so excited the first time a customer brought in a filled card that I yelled ‘Woo Hoo!'”

Soon all her store associates were “Woo Hooing” at each filled card right along with her. The customers got so excited about it that they asked for more, so Shoultz bought a cowbell. Now, whenever a customer brings in a filled card, Shoultz or an associate rings the cowbell while just about everyone in the store joins in a “Woo Hoo” chorus.

A few customers initially reacted with embarrassment at receiving so much attention, Shoultz notes, but most love it. The practice became so popular that Ken Fish, Shoultz’s division manager, got cowbells for managers of the other 121 stores he oversees and company CEO John B. Hess dropped by to participate. “Because we’re a food location, we give away free stuff all the time,” Shoultz says, “so we’re always creating excitement for our customers.”

Helen Keller said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

You go, girl. Woo Hoo!

Mel Kleiman, president of recruiting/retention specialist Humetrics LLC andthe author of four books, can be reached at 800-218-0930 ext. 119, or by e-mailat mkleiman@ humetrics.com

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