It all starts with clean restrooms, indicates Business Growth Speaker, Meridith Elliot Powell. Powell was referring to Buc-ee’s, the iconic Texas-based gas station chain, and how the founders realized that a clean restroom was the most important feature for road-weary travelers looking for a brief rest. By focusing on a feature that other gas stations often overlook, Buc-ee’s was able to differentiate itself in a commodity-based business. Their success is reflected in their number 1 ranking in every category (cleanliness, coffee, customer service, outdoor lighting, restrooms and overall experience) in the Q1 2018 GasBuddy Fuel and Convenience Store Quality Rankings (30-49 stations) (PDF).
In the above interview, filmed at NCTC’s 2018 Winter Education Conference, Powell suggests every business must emphatically listen to its customers, the way Buc-ee’s did, to create more than products, but an experience that customers want as much as the products. Buc-ee’s built on their reputation for clean restrooms by adding other high-quality items that their customers want.
She indicates that successful communication is when the customers feels their needs or wants are being acted upon. She explains one of the important reasons for communications is to remind the customer of the value beyond the product and service (e.g. clean restrooms).
Whether they are on the back-end trying to understand the customers needs or on the front-end working directly with customers, Powell suggests employees with critical thinking skills are a necessity. So, despite the success of automation at removing friction in the purchase and customer support process, employees with excellent people skills are more important than ever.¹
¹And, if Buc-ee’s is an indication, it is important to pay for those skills, as according to this July 4th, 2018 Business Insider article, Buc-ee’s pays $13 minimum (compared to $7.25 Texas minimum wage) with 3 weeks paid time off and a 401k plan).