The C-Store And Customer Reviews

With fierce competition, c-store customers can be fickle—even a minor change can mean the difference in where the customer shops. And while a visit to the c-store might seem routine, 90 percent of customers read online reviews before visiting a business—c-stores included. Nearly as many consider the customer review as trustworthy as a personal recommendation. In this day of personal tech, apps such as Yelp and Google are accessible to nearly every potential customer; which is both a blessing and a curse—and a significant opportunity for c-stores.

The All-Powerful Rating

A new app called GasBuddy is at the forefront of the new c-store customer review revolution. A recent study of their customers (“Gasbuddies”) revealed that three-quarters of customers actively rate and publish reviews of c-stores and gas stations, and the same amount find these ratings helpful when choosing which c-store to visit.

The study also discovered perhaps the most crucial piece of data:  that 69 percent of users wouldn’t consider visiting a store if it had fewer than three stars. In today’s business world, customer ratings are the new currency. These results were generated from over seven million ratings of 131 c-store brands with 30 locations or more.

Poison:  The Negative Review

There’s simply no way to ensure that every single customer who walks through the door of a business has a positive experience. Moreover, certain customers pride themselves on being tough sells—even if everything is as perfect as can be, the most they will give is a four-star rating. Sooner or later, every business gets a negative review—earned or not. It’s how the owner chooses to respond to this most normal of events that will truly affect the business.

In the Gasbuddy survey, eight out of 10 respondents said they would consider returning to a store if they received a personal response to their complaint, and 72 percent would consider revisiting a store if the manager resolved their complaint quickly. Also relevant:  21 percent of users place the highest value on whether or not c-store personnel have taken the time to respond to customer reviews.

How To “Wow” A Customer

So how does a c-store driven to succeed stay on top of its ratings?  It’s certainly possible, though difficult—customer reviews can span a wide range of topics, from fuel prices to salad fixings. But it’s important to start with the basics, fundamental principles that make for a positive experience in any retail locations:  general cleanliness (particularly of restrooms), the helpfulness of associates (friendliness, knowledge of products), and product availability. (Of course, customers’ desire for convenience at their convenience store is self-evident.) A recent Technomic survey also found that the “taste and flavor of the food” is a number one factor in whether they patronize a c-store, and customers also value low prices, proximity, and a wide range of products.

What is less important to the customer? Survey respondents indicated the following as relatively unimportant:  whether the store was “kid-friendly,” had a recycling program, appropriate music selection, and décor.