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CHICACO -- At the NACS show Sunday, Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, a professor at The Ohio State University, spoke about her studies in the convenience store arena, and how QuikTrip Corporation, headquartered in Tulsa, Okla., is remaining successful.
Asked to study the convenience store industry, Bendapudi found that out of the millions of businesses in the United States, QuikTrip Corporation, headquartered in Tulsa, Okla., ranked number 41 in Fortune magazine's 100 Best Places To Work For ranking. So what is it about QuikTrip that allows the company to bring in $60,000 in sales per store each week, according to Chet Cadieux, CEO of QuikTrip? They know their customers, and treat their employees well.
"We have a saying," said Cadieux, "If you're not serving the customer, you better be serving the people who are."
Bendapudi stressed the importance of customer knowledge, and explained how QuikTrip uses this information to help keep customers satisfied. "You have to look at the world through your customer's eyes," said Bendapudi. "It sounds simple, but it's easier said than done. The difference is running a marketing oriented business rather than a production oriented business. Production says, 'if you build it they will come,' but marketing asks, 'what does this idea mean for the customer, and how will they benefit from it?"
Convenience stores also need to know who their customers are to understand their individual needs. For example, are their customers soccer moms or working women? "You've got to look at the needs of individual consumer segments, but don't presume you know what the customer wants," said Bendapudi. "You must talk to your customers to make this prediction."
And the closest way to understanding your customers is through your employees.
In order to accomplish the need of catering to customers, QuikTrip starts inside by taking care of its employees, and this is crucial, according to Bendapudi. "Every service encounter is a moment of truth as far as your customer is concerned," she explained. "You are either building trust and loyalty or detracting from trust and loyalty. Think of your employees as a living brand."
To make sure employees are representing a company's brand correctly, retailers need to have a strong training program in place, and QuikTrip has this covered. "Each new full-time employee has a 'personal trainer' work with them for two weeks," said Cadieux. "Then the trainer will call them and follow-up to make sure everything is going O.K. after the initial training period."
The company also rewards its employees with tailored benefit packages, team rewards and customer service appraisal. "Just like you need to look at the world through your customer's eyes, you need to look at the world from your employees eyes and reward them," said Bendapudi.
She also stressed there are two other factors in a retail environment that are important to your customers in addition to the people working in the store. These are the store processes and the physical evidence. "Physical evidence has a huge impact on us whether we realize it or not," she noted. This includes cleanliness of the store, which can either capture a customer or send them away.
QuikTrip is not the only convenience store meeting its employee and customer needs successfully, but it is one to watch, according to Bendapudi. The payoffs include low turnover, customer satisfaction, and employee commitment.