I don’t often fill up at a convenience store — mostly, I buy my gas at Costco, because it’s cheaper — but when I do, I usually choose QuikTrip. In fact, I’ve been known to drive out of my way just to find a QT, when there’s no Costco nearby.
Why? Two words: customer experience.
QT stores are clean and well-stocked, the employees neatly dressed, friendly and efficient. Going into a QT seldom fails to brighten my day, just a little — as opposed to my experience at certain other convenience stores, where merely walking through the doors makes me feel like a piece of my soul has just died.
The same principle applies to fast-food restaurants. One particular hamburger chain, which shall be nameless here — we’ll just call it the Big Burger Joint, or BBJ — has long been my favorite. That may have less to do with the food than with the fact that my grandfather used to take me there when I was a kid.
Which is not to say that I don’t like the food. I do. Hamburgers have always topped my list of gastronomical delights, especially BBJ’s. Some might say they’re overly processed or warmed-over or whatever, but I prefer them to the wimpy “gourmet burgers,” slathered in goodness-knows-what, that are now in vogue.
BBJ also has the world’s best french fries, and I should know. I am a bona fide french fry aficionado, as my cholesterol readings will attest.
But I digress. My point is, I really like the food at BBJ. And yet, I find myself going there less and less.
Why? Because the customer experience, which has been going downhill for years, has recently reached its nadir. At too many locations, the employees tend toward rudeness (or at least indifference), the wait times are long and even the quality of the food is no longer assured.
A few weeks ago, after waiting 10 minutes at my favorite BBJ location for employees even to acknowledge my presence — even though they appeared fully staffed at the time, which isn’t always the case — I left and haven’t been back.
Compare that to the typical experience at chicken sandwich king Chick-fil-A. Honestly, I don’t even like chicken as well as beef — sorry, Chick-fil-A cows —but nowadays I’ll often go to CFA instead of BBJ just because of the customer experience.
A CFA restaurant is always nice and clean, the teenagers behind the counter are unfailingly friendly (“My pleasure!”), and the food is predictably good, if not as scrumptious as burgers. Their waffle fries are pretty tasty, too, and I’ve convinced my wife they have fewer calories.
But it’s really the customer experience that keeps me going back — and I think the same is probably true for millions of Americans, including those who inexplicably prefer chicken.
Why so many businesses fail to grasp such a simple concept, I’ll never understand.
Rob Jenkins is a local author and college professor. He has written four books (soon to be five), including “Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility,” available at Liberty Books in downtown Lawrenceville and on Amazon. The view expressed here are his own. Email Rob at [email protected].