Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Winning formula: Good service with a smile

I spotted a news brief recently that reported service station convenience stores are stealing customers from fast food chains. In fact, the story suggested that even some family restaurants offering moderately prices meals – Applebees, Chili’s, Houlihan’s – are losing business to folks chowing down on nachos and burgers at corner gas stations.

Of course such neighborhood gas stations include mini-marts featuring fruit, veggies, candy and snacks; hot dogs, hamburgers and sandwiches; coffee, lattes, espresso and all manner of sodas and frozen treats. And, at least the one I visit regularly, cheap prices and great service.

In my little corner of the world, right across from that place with the golden arches, is A QuikTrip. The clerk behind the register always smiles and says howdy when I visit, actually makes eye contact when I step up to pay or ask a question, then – and this, I know, is hard to believe – manages to handle cash and make change using his noggin instead of a computer.

The clerk does all this while handling a slew of other chores – printing out gas receipts and lottery tickets, monitoring the dozen or so gas pumps out front and making sure the shop is clean, neat and fully stocked.

If three or more customers back up at one register, another clerk automatically – I swear I’m not making this up – stops whatever he might be doing, opens up a second register and keeps things moving smoothly along. I’ve never waited more than a minute or two at a register. Obviously, the bosses at QT’s corporate headquarters know something about customer service.

It’s a lesson the toads running the golden arches have forgotten – and it’s costing them money. Everything that QuikTrip does right, the burger drones across the street get wrong – no smiles, no eye contact, no service.

I actually like the coffee at McBurgers. As often as not, however, when I stop by in the late morning they pour out the last dregs from the pot then sheepishly tell me they’re out and need to make more. Ah, that never happens across the street at QT.

Now, if filling stations can just figure out how to make decent fries, cheap apple pies and start offering plastic action figures with kid meals, I could fill up my tummy and my tank in one quick stop!

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