Delivering a Service Culture

JohnNewFrom great corners, clean restrooms and modern facilities to fresh food and a wide selection of popular snacks, convenience stores are committed to delivering outstanding service. This commitment is evident in the  industry’s growing sales numbers at a time when most other retail channels are struggling to break even.
This service-driven culture is the industry’s foundation and it must continue to dominate your training programs and drive your recruiting efforts when you’re looking for your next great brand ambassador.

In October, Convenience Store Decisions honored Maverik as our 2013 Chain of the Year in large part due to its amazing culture. Like Tedeschi’s, Thorntons, Nice N Easy, Rutter’s and all the chains to win this prestigious award before them, the customer service commitment wasn’t something these chains simply discussed in the boardroom, it is their prime directive for existing at all. And that mindset is what separates the industry’s leaders from the rest.

Customers have shown—with their wallets and in focus groups—that price is relatively low on the list of reasons why they shop a convenience store. They want a friendly smile when they walk in the door, a clean store and a genuine sense that you appreciate their business. In other words, they want to feel respected. After all, would you continue to shop at a store that didn’t show you the respect you deserve? Regardless of a great price or a convenient location, you know deep down you wouldn’t. Why would you expect your customers to act any differently?

Service Without Strings
I got to thinking about this a few weeks ago when, for the second time in the past few years, I saw something at a convenience store that struck me as odd. I was in an independent c-store that had hand-written signs in three different locations that read: “No cell phones in this area.”

I understand that this store wants to keep the line moving, and rightfully so, but these signs struck me as thoroughly unprofessional and lacking respect for the customers. There is a need for stores to dictate some terms to customers when they shop their stores: no stealing, don’t damage the merchandise or the facility and certainly don’t instigate an argument with an employee or other customers. But when a company starts dictating how you must behave when you’re shopping at one of its locations, well then that’s my tipping point.

We all watched Seinfeld mock this exact behavior in its Soup Nazi episode. This is no different, less the great soup. I asked a couple of customers if they were offended by the signs. Both of them said they weren’t…because they had no intention of obeying the edict. That begs the question then, “Just how effective is such a policy?”

The storeowner told me he put the policy in place because people were talking on the phone and holding up the line. When I asked him if he lost any customers over this policy, he said a couple people left the store angry when he said something to them. I followed that up by asking him if it was worth it to have customers leaving his store angrily. While he admitted he didn’t want unhappy customers, he was very much content with the policy, even though he couldn’t quantify whether his service was any faster. In fact, his answer was eerily reminiscent of the schoolyard bully: my store, my rules.

We all love to boost revenues and profits, but what we can’t forget is that in a retail setting profits are a derivative of service. In this case, it seems that this cell phone policy is a roadblock to profits. I would like to hear your thoughts on the issue. Is this policy something you would adopt for your stores? Or can you provide great service without putting limitations on your customers? Email me your opinions at jlofstock@csdecisions.com.

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