My wife and I travel to Maine often to visit friends and family. There is a chain of gas stations called Blue Canoe (how cute) that are run by the Irving company up there. We almost always (99% of the time) stop at a Blue canoe in Falmouth to gas up, get soft-drinks, and do our business. Why? Immaculate rest-rooms.
How many public restrooms have you been in that were a disaster? And don't they give you a horrible impression of the establishment?
I can tell you that one of the swankiest malls in Boston has filthy, foul-smelling bathrooms. It's one of those places that you need a second mortgage to buy a pair of shoes. You can't tell me that the can't afford an extra few hundred dollars a week to keep their bathrooms spotless. It's simply laziness and a lack of appreciation for the fact that every shopper - even the wealthy ones - have to pee.
As a marketing tool, a gas station with an sparkling rest-room is a huge differentiator. I can tell you that there are frequently lines to use the rest room at this gas station, and everybody is getting gas and snacks while they are there anyway. I have never seen anything like it at any other gas station.
The Blue Canoe stations boast that they check their bathrooms every half an hour (and I bet they do). They have a suggestion box inside the bathroom. The bathroom is incredibly clean, comfortable, and tastefully decorated. At Christmas, there were even decorations in there.
Does it make a difference to me? Absolutely. I can get gas almost anywhere, but why not stop in where my wife and I can use the bathroom and not have to hold our breath or feel like we've contracted the creeping crud?
On top of this, the Blue Canoe employees are extremely courteous and go out of there way to give extra service. One of the cashiers got me liter of diet Pepsi from the back because they were on special and were out in the front cooler. Here's a company that understands that, in a commoditized industry, customer experience counts.
In Boston, Hess gas stations get the big thumbs up from me for excellent customer service. Given the 6-7 vendors I can choose to get gas from around my home - I nearly always choose to go to Hess.
Customer experience marketing translates to dollars on your bottom line. It isn't that expensive to keep a bathroom clean, or to set policies and train for customer service.
Make your customers enjoy doing business with you. It seems like common sense, but unfortunately almost nobody gets it. Customer experience is in short supply. The good thing is that you can easily outshine your competition with very little effort.
J D Moore - Marketing Comet