Customer Service Is Key

SavOn convenience stores score exceptionally high on mystery shop reviews for its customer service skills.

The convenience store industry has changed its customer service standards the past couple years. Customers expect more out of convenience store employees than ever before, and want some sort of “experience” when they stop by their favorite location.

More c-stores have caught onto this expectation, and liven up their stores by hiring stronger staffs and training new employees on customer service. The best stores in today’s market buzz with interaction between customers and employees, and people have an altogether better attitude.

Mike Green, co-founder of Customer Impact, a mystery shopping company, stopped at six or seven different convenience stores during a long trip last month. Every single stop impressed him in some way–not because of low gas prices or for the products, but because of the customer service.

“Every single stop, somebody greeted me,” Green said. “To me, the convenience store industry has really changed in the last two years. I’ve noticed most convenience stores greet you and say hello. You never saw that before.”

Green’s company reviews retail outlets and a handful of convenience stores through its mystery shopper visits. The company has reviewed restaurants and retail outlets for more than 20 years. 

“Our job is to determine what the service standards are for each retail concept,” he said.

The main thing for convenience stores to focus on with mystery shop programs is the customer service. Green said some general standards are to greet customers when they walk in, suggest hot products and help customers on the floor. Other things that mystery shoppers look for are product quality, fresh food, trash, grease stains, outside cleanliness, stock levels and restroom cleanliness. He said stores will score highest if they are consistent with these standards.

One convenience store that consistently scores high on its mystery shops with Customer Impact is SavOn convenience stores. SavOn has taken part of Customer Impact’s mystery shopper program for almost two years. Sean Brown, SavOn operations director, said his company’s “main thing” is training employees on guest service their first day on the job. 

“We have seen success and growth through the use of our mystery shop program not only in our strategic business metrics, but also in the increased skill sets of our associates’ ability to provide exceptional guest experience,” Brown said.

SavOn gets 52 mystery shop visits per month, spread out among its 13 stores.

Although the company’s team members were anxious at first when they began the mystery shopper program, team members consistently look forward to the results now. Brown said his employees have benefited from taking part in mystery shop programs. One team member, Tamilynn, told him she loves to get feedback from the reviews to see how she’s doing with her job and how well she greets her guests.

“I am always excited to see the results of our mystery shops,” Brown said. “We make great strides every month in our scores, so I know we are on the right track.”

SavOn even hosts a luncheon each year specifically to honor employees who had perfect reviews during a mystery shopping trip. Brown calls it his “100 Club.”

“We invite all the SavOn team members who receive a perfect 100 on at least one mystery shop during the past year [to the luncheon],” Brown said.

Brown said he rewards his employees with prizes such as $100 SavOn gas cards or Turning Stone Resort & Casino gift cards that can be redeemed for spa treatments or a dinner at a fine dining restaurant. Last year, he said 76 employees attended the luncheon.

Green said it’s clear to mystery shoppers and customers if a business such as SavOn is doing well with customer satisfaction.

“You can see the difference,” Green said. “The employees are usually smiling, wearing name tags, dressed neat, wiping counters. It’s obvious to me, and that’s why I like working with those guys.”

SavOn Convenience Stores are an enterprise of the Oneida Indian Nation.

Top Factors In Customer Satisfaction

A survey by Corporate Research International, a division of Stericycle, revealed that three of the top five factors that drive customer choice at convenience stores relate to employees. Consumers reported the following:

1- Convenience– 8.55 out of 10
2- Gas Prices– 8.48 out of 10
3- Employees’ Professional Appearance– 8.41 out of 10
4- Employee Willingness to Help Customers– 8.38 out of 10
5- Employee Knowledge and Courtesy– 8.24 out of 10


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