There’s no question: the gas station business has been, and will continue to be, extremely competitive.
Couple that with additional headwinds from an overall decline in gasoline consumption and the breakneck changes in consumer tastes, it has become absolutely critical that Gas Stations, Service Centers, and Convenience Marts differentiate our businesses in order to remain viable.
Speedway Corporate and franchise owners should constantly be looking for creative ways to attract and retain loyal, high-paying customers.
One way to do that is to focus on the customer profiles that spend the most time and money at our Speedway locations. In many ways the occupational service sector businesses fits the bill.
While our truck-stop locations are custom-built to service industries like transportation, our urban locations have had more of a challenge orienting our businesses to this unique and loyal customer profile.
Using survey information collected at selected Speedway locations in 2019, we’ll review some way in which our urban / suburban locations can cater our convenience store shopping experience for this key under-served customer segment.
Understanding the segment.
“I love the rewards programs here, but the gas station stalls are way too small for my flatbed tow truck. I wish they had larger dedicated stalls for service trucks.” Michael Campbell – One Click Towing Company, Cincinnati Ohio
The occupational service sector is comprised of around 20% of the overall service industry in the United States, with value production exceeding $3 trillion according to a the U.S. Census Burea
u. It is largely mobile, typically providing on-site services to customers.
Business example include the home repair, home mitigation, utility, roadside services, home improvement, waste management, social assistance, and landscaping.
Because these workers are mobile, they tend to:
- Fill up more
- Purchase breakfast and / or lunch on the road
- Have more vehicle issues
According to survey data, over 45% rent or use a company service truck, and over 70% of these responders frequent the same locations day over day.
High value customers.
Typical jobs in these field pay well, but often require longer hours, and as such, would prefer to do their shopping, eating, and resting at these locations to save time on the job.
Some ideas to cater to these customers include:
Getting the basics right.
- Fresh produce / mini grocery store offerings
- High quality dinner offering for overtime workers
- Comfortable rest area / outside eating area for rewards customers
- Free tire pressure fill for rewards customers
- Larger stalls reserved for service trucks for fast in and out access
- Truck maintenance service center
“The outside of the convenience store looks good, but is a bit of a mess when you walk inside.” David M. Brothers, Duke Energy – Utility Maintenance, Asheville North Carolina
While focusing on a specific customer segment may help drive profits, it’s important to not lose sight of the quality fundamentals below in order to keep your current customers and retain new ones.
- Excellent customer service – Your staff is the face of your business, so it’s vastly important that employees are always respect, attentive, and friendly.
- Store and station appearance – You could get everything else right, but if your location looks run down, many would-be customers automatically take a pass. Ensure that your station looks sharp – inside and out. That includes landscaping, trash receptacles, paint, lighting, and signage. And always, ALWAYS include (and spend) a sufficient annual budget for maintenance and modernization.
- Cleanliness – Nothing repels repeat customers faster than a foul bathroom or dingy interior. Make sure that windows, floor, and restrooms are spotless at all times, even if this includes having another staff member on hand to do the upkeep – it’s worth the extra cost.
- Competitive gas pricing – Make sure you are on your game with pegging your gas rates to your competitors. Loyal gas station customers pay attention to the pennies, so make sure you are at least nominal to your closest competitors.