the power of one

One manager, one employee or idea can make a difference in customers’ lives. Every interaction has the potential to create positive and negative experiences.

Some psychologists say that every day, more of us feel less effective than we used to feel. Even relatively minor things, such as trying to get through a voice mail system so you can talk to a real live person when you have a problem with a bill can make you feel miniscule. Natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina illustrate all too clearly just how rapidly the control we think we have over our homes and lives can vanish-and feeling as if what we do isn’t important gets 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:

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When Wallis Oil Co. Inc. (Cuba, MO/44 stores) first began offering free Speedpasses-those small plastic key chains that allow customers to purchase gas at the pump without pulling out cash or a credit card-Wallis Assistant Store Manager Eric Lewis took it upon himself to let people know. Twice a week for the next month, Lewis spent several hours explaining the benefits to customers in Wallis’s store parking lots. He traveled all over town doing this, and signed up more than 300 Wallis customers-every one of whom appreciated his efforts. There was no other prize or bonus involved. “I just decided to do it, so I did it” Lewis says. “I love talking with people, being involved 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 its many Hispanic customers bought them. The products are very popular in Mexico and were given good visual spots in the store, so T & C Store Manager Debbie Russell decided that boosting sales called for stronger measures. She and her employees called their vendors together and put on a drink sampling in the parking lot complete with hot air balloons. When customers bought one of these products the store threw in another one for free, and Mexican drink sales have soared.

* When Kathryn Shoultz, store manager for Amerada Hess Corp. (Woodbridge, NJ/1,308 stores) took over a new store at the beginning of 2005, she immediately noticed that the store had few loyal customers, so she began offering a Hess loyalty card to 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!

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