Creating a Good First Impression

Friendliness and cleanliness build a good foundation for repeat customers.

September 01, 2021

Convenience Matters Episode #299

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—What do customers want? A clean, friendly store. “People always think [the first impression] happens when [the customer opens] the door to a gas station,” said Mike Zahajko, executive vice president for CAF, during this week’s Convenience Matters, “Great Stores Feature Friendliness and Cleanliness.”

“But I think that first impression starts earlier … as [the customer pulls] into the lot. … What’s the lighting like out there? What’s the experience? How does the forecourt look? Are the pumps operational, or do they have cones in front of them? And then when I’m out there finally filling up, am I standing in oil? Is there garbage around me or is it clean?”

“I think it comes down to that overall site experience … as you pull up onto the site,” said Nick Scherzer, director of Insight Research. He added that convenience retailers who do this well have the “engagement from the [employees] … through to the whole offer, particularly the fresh food and right through to the bathrooms. … It’s that recognition of the overall site experience that really sets those leading operators apart.”

Zahajko pointed out that the biggest challenge for retailers all over the world is how to become a “consumer stop or a destination location. … I think the customer journey or destination has really been the focus for a lot of retailers, and particularly, they’re trying to do that by making their spaces a little bit more friendly.”

Both agreed that NACS events provided food for thought about making improvements to their stores. “You definitely see that’s where retailers are getting their ideas from,” Zahajko said. “They’re looking at each other and … bringing those good ideas back to their country. I really think NACS having these events where you can see sites and talk and collaborate with [other retailers] provides that chance to bring the highest standards in the best of the best more unilaterally across all the countries and markets.”

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