Hitting the Customers’ “Sweet Spot”

The ability to offer outstanding service remains the industry’s biggest asset. Do whatever it takes to exceed expectations.

Doing a late night check on our new Huddle House restaurant attached to a quite awesome BP travel center, I arrived just in time to tackle the concerns of a pretty tough and very tired truck driver getting in from a rugged 12 hours on the interstate.

He related that he did not feel that his server, one of our very best, was adequately friendly to him. I sat down to listen first, than talk with him, for over the road drivers are the heart of our business at Green Oil and truly the heartbeat of America.

Toward the end of our conversation, I was feeling only a C+ grade for my efforts despite my magnetic personality and matchless charm. Failure for me is never easily accepted. I asked him to excuse me for a moment and went into the c-store section and returned with a single king-sized Reese’s bar, which helped produce a very happy customer who promised to return.

This customer was tired and road weary and merely needed a little extra respect. Reese’s was the vehicle I chose to sweeten his day, and it worked. Customers need to know we care. In this case, it took just a $1.50 candy bar. But let’s examine the situation a little closer.

Using the same tried and true formula that I’ve used for many years, I determined the average merchandise sale per customer—adding in the average fuel purchase—and the result showed that the average value of a single customer today amounts to almost $2,500 in sales per year.

Service First Industry
We all know when you factor in that happy customers will inform five other people about their good experience and unhappy ones are much more likely to tell 10 others, the overall influence of that one customer scares the heck out of me to the tune of as much as $40,000. In those terms, the candy magic was well worth the investment.

I’ve said before that candy is the only consistently true happy purchase a c-store customer makes. I also use this tactic to reward servers, cooks, cashiers and other customers. In the past, we’ve also used Tootsie Pops at our laundry. Children quite obviously love them, but you’d be amazed how well they go over with teens, adults and even seniors.

I’m here to tell you what you most likely already know—your business can’t survive pleasing just the easily satisfied. Today’s economy demands that we consistently make an effort to exceed all customers’ expectations.

To achieve a truly high level of success, we must be able to handle the challenging consumers on a consistent basis.  The first key to successfully handling these situations is pretty simple: have someone greet that customer quickly and flash them a world class smile. Smiles are indeed a special language that transcend all nationalities and often eliminate the need for the spoken word.

A crucial key to achieving this kind of success level through your employees is to make them understand that quite often they have not done anything wrong but, perhaps at the same time, they have not done anything overly right either.

Cashiers must learn that a customer’s bad mood is usually not at all personal, rather the results of a bad day, financial troubles, etc. While it’s still not going to be fun dealing with the challenging customer, turning their day around is really worth the effort. In baseball parlance, it’s the equivalent of a game winning hit. For me, being able to compete in this wonderful game keeps me excited and makes getting up each morning a reward instead of a task. Let’s pass the good thought on my friends.

Jim Callahan has more than 40 years experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CSDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at jfcallahan502@msn.com.

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