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  • Commander-in-Tweet: How to Trump Your Store to Success

    President Trump said it best, “My use of social media is not Presidential - it's MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL.” If you think about it, this attitude applies to the way social media should be commanded for use in modern c-stores.

    Millions of users understand how to engage and communicate in convenience store (c-store) social media conversations and your brand needs to be more proactive towards using their social media space to help create meaningful connections to your target audience.

    A clear majority of c-stores still appear to treat social media as an afterthought. However, its importance and value has grown to the very top of the communications hierarchy in today’s retail culture. C-store consumers are changing the way they want to interact and engage towards getting discounts and receive promotions. Now they are combining their online and offline shopping behavior to maximize greater customer experience and identify those brands that will ultimately provide for their needs.

    In referencing online, CSNews’ own research shows c-stores taking a detour in connecting social media as a PRIMARY driver for generating increased customer experience. They also found that 75% of c-stores use Facebook for image building as their core strategy towards social media engagement. Yet, few respondents hardly acknowledge they know or even understood if they are getting any benefit from their efforts.

    CSNews, Editorial Director Don Longo says, "Millennials are the largest demographic visiting convenience stores today and they are an important target audience for retailers, from reshaping the definition of snacking to redefining the role of technology in the shopping experience, they are driving change in the c-store channel, as well as opening up new opportunities." Research shows that millennials exhibit consumer desires and shopping patterns that differ from older generations.

    For social media best practices, CAF offers the following 10 guidelines to help increase your chances for social media success:

    1. Millennials often use slang or urbanomics in their communications. Use appropriate language to relate your promotions towards their understanding.
    2. Social media is more than just Facebook. Younger generations use Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, and YouTube. Young professionals also use LinkedIn.
    3. Another key to success is damage control. Be aware that in the social media universe you can receive negative responses just as much as positive. Be ready to respond to achieve better results.
    4. Look towards instant gratification. Promote many smaller incentives verses one large prize during promotional marketing efforts.
    5. C-stores most common purchases are focused around beverages. Promote beverage specials individually or in combination with food items to draw in more customer traffic.
    6. Loyalty programs exist to benefit your customers. Try giving leverage points when customers register and additional points for purchases to keep them coming back. Remember they look for “What’s in it for me?”
    7. Empower your employees to be social media brand advocates. Employee engagement is one of the best ways to get your social message spread everywhere.
    8. Make every social CTA mobile friendly.
    9. Nearly 80% of time spent on social media is spent on mobile devices. When you’re sharing content on social media and hoping consumers will take action — whether that’s by clicking, purchasing, or sharing — every call to action (CTA) must be seamless on mobile.
    10. Define your ROI. Social media gives you tons of data, but you should decide what user actions are most important to you. Figure them out and track them before your next campaign.

    Whether or not you’re a Trump or other former candidate supporter, Trump used social media to build relationships with voters and create a word-of-mouth buzz for his brand. This strategy helped Trump build attitudinal loyalty, to which a customer prefers or likes a brand. This kind of social media drive will win results over your competitors.

  • How To Safely Clean Oil from Residential Driveways

    Cleaning an oil stained driveway the conventional way not only takes time and energy, but has the potential to damage your concrete and harm the environment.  It also can bring the wrath of the Home Owners Association (HOA) down on you you.  So instead of wasting time and effort on pressure washing, or risk washing harsh chemicals down the drains, use the EPA recommended method of removing oil from the environment and use the following instructions for an easy, time-saving, eco-friendly alternative!  For Industrial purposes, click here.

    What You Will Need:
    EXIMO®, broom/push broom, or cleaning brush

     

    Preparation
    Using an outdoor broom, sweep away any loose debris. Ensure pavement is dry.

    To Clean
    1- Sprinkle a small amount of EXIMO directly onto the oil stain(s).  Use just enough to thinly cover the surface area of the stain, avoiding excess.

    2- Using a push broom or handheld cleaning brush, brush EXIMO into the surface of the concrete.  Spread until stain appears translucent.  Do not rinse off.

    3- Repeat this process weekly for 4-6 weeks until the stain is completely removed.

    What Is Bioremediation?     Product Info/Instructions/Video

  • How To Clean Trash Cans...Fast & Easy

    While trash cans are convenient to keep garbage and waste on the inside, over time they can accumulate filth and residue on the outside (especially industrial bins.)  You've seen it, customers trying to slam their partially empty soda cup and missing, or pretending to be Stephen Curry by shooting their sack of fast food garbage over the car only to have it clank on the top of the garbage can and spilling milk shake.  We just shake our heads at this.  And if we can't get to it quickly on hot summer days, it seems to dry and harden instantly.

    Here is an effortless way to clean the garbage stains and dried on drips from you trash cans...fast & easy without scrubbing or using harsh chemicals!

    What you will need:

    *  2 empty spray bottles
    *  Permanent marker
    * Cleaning rag or cloth
    * OTIS Super Concentrate Cleaner

    Preparation: Add three (3) scoops of OTIS to 32 oz. of water in OTIS marked spray bottle.

    To Clean:
    (Frequency - As needed;   Task Duration - 1-5 minutes per garbage can when used weekly

    1- Liberally spray initial amount of solution to completely cover the surface, and soak the tough dirt and grime.  Apply again, using "jet stream" to help suspend the dirt and grime, allowing it to drain off.  Using the jet setting and ensuring that the entire surface has been covered with OTIS, will help prevent streaking.

    2- Rinse with water.  For tougher stains, repeat steps 1-2.
    (Tip: Mark a  different spray bottle with permanent marker for "WATER" and rinse will the surface is still wet with OTIS)

    For best results, use a clean towel or cloth to wipe surface dry.

     

    Product information, Training Video, Printable Instructions

  • Drive-in Summer Sales

    Summer is here and travelers are eager to hit the open road. On the way to their destination they will stop to refuel and hopefully grab a bite to eat. If you are a convenience store retailer, you know that customer experience will drive in or drive out additional sales. With consumers now turning to C-stores to purchase a variety of food offerings, it is essential that your facilities meet their expectations for cleanliness. Food service excellence and cleanliness, inside and out, go hand-in-hand. The cleanliness of your store’s exterior and the condition of your bathrooms can have a huge effect on inside store purchases.

    This is an industry for on-the-go customers. Restroom cleaning and maintenance programs are a great way to differentiate your store from the competition. A positive customer experience will increase business. Consider this: a dirty bathroom can push customers right back out the door —especially if the customer had interest in purchasing prepared foods. No one wants to buy food that was prepared in a dirty environment or touched by hands that were washed in a dirty bathroom. Getting your customers to come inside the store is a huge opportunity when you consider that *65% of your profit dollars come from in-store sales. That means you are missing out on additional in-store sales from *46% of your fuel station customers!

    Many of the people that visit your store every day come to fill up the tank and drain the bladder. A dirty forecourt or restroom will leave a negative impression of your store and they may never come back. Not good! NACS/Coca Cola research shows that cleanliness is a core need for customers to feel comfortable making in store purchases. The most successful retailers take this information and make cleanliness a top priority. The results are a potential increase of 15% or more in profits.

    Even though only approximately 54% of your fueling customers come inside your store, 100% of them experience your store’s exterior. Therefore, it is crucial that your fueling areas and equipment are kept remarkably clean.  Clean up your forecourt areas and bathrooms so you can drive-in summer sales!

    *NACS/Coca-Cola

  • How To Prevent Squeegee Bucket Stench

    Give your squeegee buckets a “breath mint,” and your customers a break, by using the only product on the market with an active ingredient that combats and reduces the growth of bacteria which causes that nasty stench. Having a clean solution and a fresh smelling bucket is something customers will remember. What will customers remember about your buckets?

    What You Will Need:

    * Squeegee bucket or clean container

    * ORUS Ultra® or ORUS TABS®

    * Water

    Steps:

    1. Add one (1) ORUS Tab directly to a clean squeegee bucket. Fill container with up to 2.5 gallons of water and mix till solution is completely dissolved. ORUS will quickly dissolve and can be used within minutes.
      OR....
    2. Using a 3-5 gallon bucket, add one (1) ORUS Tab for each 2
      or 2.5 gallons of water and allow the tab to dissolve.  Once dissolved, empty ORUS solution into squeegee bucket.

     

    Task Duration

    * Mix new solution: 1-2 minutes/bucket

    * With bucket clean out: 3-4 minute

    TIPS

    Here are some tips for clean, good smelling and great looking squeegee buckets:

    • Squeegee bucket water should be changed every 1-2 days
    • Use a phosphate free cleaner to boost cleaning efficiency (ORUS)
    • Measure correctly – more is not always better!

    Additional Information       ORUS Tabs Instructions, Video

  • Why You Need Well Trained Employees

    In business, all roads lead to the bottom line.  You might ask, "How can training help my bottom line…training is an expense!?"  A well-trained employee is happier, and on average is a longer tenured employee, both of which help reduce costs and increase profits; positive financial benefits can be realized by providing training!

    Benefits of Training
    Longer Tenured Employees:

    According to a report by the NACS CCRRC, “*top companies investing in front line training average 72% longer retention” of employees.  This increase in tenure may reduce your employee churn by 25% per year, and a savings of approximately $10,150 in annual turnover expense.  What could you do with an extra $10k?
    Source: NACS CCRRC, New Ideas for Retaining Store-Level Employees.

    Well Trained Employees at Top Companies…

    Know their purpose, expectations, and have higher job satisfaction

    * Know why cleaning, or other tasks, are done a certain way, as demonstrated by their manager
    Source: cstoredecisions.com 7/2014 “The Art of Training”

    * Have well trained managers that lead the way in receiving and delivering training, and then ensure employees follow through with their assigned tasks correctly and on schedule

    * Make the workplace safer for themselves, and their customers, because they are trained and have been given the right tools/skills to use at the right place and time. When it comes to cleaning, proper product safety training can save you tens of thousands of dollars alone in Worker and Customer compensation expense for slip and fall/workers compensation claims.  The average slip and fall claim per incident is about $22,000, while worker’s compensation claims average about $19,000.    Source: HSP Supply Inc. How Much Does a Slip Fall Cost?

    Training Best Practices for Cleaning

    Want to get more bang for your buck from training?Spending time training employees about cleaning and holding yourselves accountable to do it regularly, has a direct impact on the bottom line.  The data shows that Clean Stores Sell More!

    * Managers set the example and participate in cleaning

    * Ensure employees receive training, are assigned tasks, and are held accountable

    * Schedule cleaning tasks for off-peak periods

    * Break cleaning tasks down into smaller, more manageable assignments

    * Consistently follow a schedule, knowing that when tasks are left undone, it will take longer to complete the task the following period

    * Follow the approved company cleaning program and products

    The bottom line is, that when time is spent providing good training to your employees, you save money. Everything from how clean the site is, to how  employees greet customers, will improve. Your customers will notice all of this, and in return, will want to return again and again to be greeted with a clean site and a friendly smile, all of which increases sales and profits.

    Additional Info:
    CAF FastTrack Training Resources;   Cleaning Training Tools

  • Beauty or the Beast?

    In the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, characters are judged by their outward appearance. The Beast has a heart of gold, but the villagers aren’t willing to get to know him because of his hideous exterior.

    The same can be said of how customers interact with your c-store. If the exterior of your store is dirty and poorly maintained, customers will likely choose to shop at a competitor store with a clean exterior. It’s all about first impressions.

    Your fuel islands are the first thing your customers see when they enter the parking lot. This is where they begin to evaluate your brand. You can serve the best food and drinks inside your store, but customers won’t want to come in if the forecourt is grimy and dirty

    1. Concrete and Asphalt

    Your exterior concrete is the first thing customers touch when they step out of their car. Nobody wants to step on dirty or oil stained concrete or asphalt. This is indicative of poor maintenance and poses a potential safety hazard.

    1. Fuel Dispensers

    This is where customers begin to shake your hand and identify with your brand. If your dispensers are dirty with oil stains, grime and germs, your customers’ experience drops significantly.

    1. Trash Receptacles

    Trash bins sit right next to your customers as they pump their gas. If they are over flowing with garbage, and emanating strong odors, this might deter your fuel customers from venturing inside your store.

    1. Squeegee Buckets

    We take for granted that squeegee buckets are a low maintenance feature of the gas station. However, if not regularly maintained, they can quickly grow bacteria and produce a strong odor. Customers don’t want to use dirty, smelly squeegees on their vehicles.

    1. Bathrooms

    Customers often plan to use the bathroom after they gas up. They will equate the cleanliness of your bathrooms with the cleanliness of your entire business. Dirty bathrooms can drive customers away from shopping inside your store — especially if they are interested in purchasing prepared foods. Customers want to feel assured that their food is prepared with clean hands on clean food prep surfaces. A dirty bathroom creates the perception of dirty surfaces throughout the store.

    Takeaway

    Maintaining c-store forecourts is a lot more involved than simply emptying the trash and wiping down surfaces. Identifying the proper products and tools to clean your forecourts is just the first piece of the puzzle. A successful cleaning program also requires proper training, employee engagement, and a plan to monitor and manage results. A clean store will improve the customer experience, create brand loyalty and increase your profits…Clean Stores Sell More!

    In order for you to meet the demands of the customer experience and to improve your sales, you must find real solutions to these real challenges listed above.

    A CAF representative is available to help you increase your customer experience. Contact us today!

  • Site Audit and Inspection Helpful Tip

    In retail the ultimate goal is to SELL MORE! These days, consumer habits and expectations change rapidly. To meet increasing sales goals, you must adapt quickly to the changing landscape. Sometimes you have all the right plans and strategy in place, but the sales don’t follow. Why? Poor execution.

    So, what can you do? Many of the largest and most successful retailers in the world conduct store audits. Audits cover a wide range of topics, including: eliminating waste and overspending, increasing operational efficiencies, and ensuring every detail of the customer experience is consistently taken care of.

    Audits are important for keeping management in-the-know on what is happening at the store level. They are also important for holding employees accountable to the company standard. However, if they aren’t used to implement impactful changes they are no more useful than busy work.

    You can organize your audits into categories and then prioritize them to help employees consistently execute changes throughout your retail store. This will also help you target any non-compliancy issues to avoid fines, de-branding of your business and possibly loss of employment.

    Below we have addressed the most common non-compliancy issues in the industry by priority:

    Urgent – Needs your immediate attention!

    These are issues pertaining to major problems such as safety, cleanliness, accurate pricing, restrooms, working dispensers, lighting, and properly functioning equipment. These are the ones that must be placed as a priority to prevent further actions being implemented towards the store.

    Somewhat Urgent – Needs attention but there is time to remedy

    These issues are related to out of the ordinary or non-routine problems. Some of these findings are geared towards ‘what if’ scenarios like landscaping, courteous staff, credit card acceptor providing receipts, and overall appearance of both the interior and exterior of the store.

    Moderate – Minor Issues that are overlooked

    These areas include not documenting current processes, employees not trained on new best practices, failing to display legal documents such as OSHA or licenses, understocked shelves and inaccurate inventory counts.

    Awareness Required – Just need to be known and corrected

    These are things like simple errors in grammar and spelling, incorrect dates/times, chipped paint, improper signage, etc. This is just information that management should be aware of but doesn’t really pertain to the scope of the audit

    In today’s competitive retail environment auditing programs are in place to enhance and enforce what resonates most with your customers. Maximizing customer experience both in the store and at the pumps creates customer loyalty at your locations.

    Clean Stores Sell More!

  • Last Best Customer Experience

    customer-experience-graphic-headerIn the past, customer experience expectations were set by a customer’s next best choice, namely the experience provided by a competitor not too far down the road.

    However, with the evolution of online reviews and the new emphasis on food service, today’s customer expectations have skyrocketed. It’s a game changer. Your old competition is no longer the benchmark. Now, you compete with the best, recent retail experience anywhere and from any industry. How do you stack up against your recent retail experiences?

    New industry leaders like Amazon, Uber and others have conditioned your customers to expect more in return, and in some part, more than maybe you are willing to deliver. Take for instance some of the following principles from Marriott Hotels founder, J. Willard Marriott:

    • “It’s the little things that make big things possible. Only close attention to the fine details of any operation makes the operation first class.”
    • “Take care of your people and they will take care of your customers.”
    • “Great companies are built by people who never stop thinking about ways to improve the business.”

    These guiding principles continue to permeate Marriott’s company culture. They expect each employee to take a customer-centric focus (from housekeepers on up to management) who take pride in responding to customer social media complaints in real-time. Upholding company core values has seemed to pay off for this customer experience champion!

    Customers expect experiences that serves their needs first. Experiences that promote giving first before they take. They expect that you provide the necessities of meeting their goals and desires with the least amount of friction possible. Customers do not want to navigate through a labyrinth maze of loyalty programs, cheap fuel incentives or processes that serve operational excellence vs. customer excellence.

    We recommend looking outside your industry. Look for the highest end of the hospitality industry. In other words, look for your customers’ last best experience, not their best alternative. It’s your customers’ last best experience that will help inform you of what they expect from your company.

    At CAF, we have found that most c-store operators simply aren't aware of the solutions to meet customer expectations. That is why it is necessary to have a partner that can help provide you the tools needed to navigate customer experience challenges concerning a cleaner store.

    Ask yourself how you can effectively increase customer experience and brand loyalty. Ask yourself how you can be your customers’ last best experience. Ask yourself how you can be the best in your industry.

    1. Is my customer service and engagement a high priority?

    2. Does my store promote exterior/interior cleanliness (these can include bathrooms, forecourts and food areas)?

    3. Am I taking advantage of my mystery shop results as feedback to provide brand value?

    4. Do I need a cleaning program aimed at reducing employee absences and health concerns?

    5. How do I become my customers’ last best experience?

    6. How do I make a positive difference in my industry with standards that are highly favored and sought after?

    In order for you to meet the demands of the customer experience and to improve your sales, you must find real solutions to the very real challenges listed above.

    A CAF representative is available to help you increase your customer experience. Contact us today!

  • Stop Delighting Your Customers!

    Perhaps in direct contrast to a growing movement in the industry towards delighting customers, it’s time for fuel retailers to wake up and STOP wasting money on simply delighting their customers.  Fuel retailers are constantly looking for that “next-thing” to help them stand out from the competition, but too commonly are focusing on attributes that only delight their customers and not the things that differentiate them from the competition.

    In a survey of c-store customers, Boston Consulting Group (source: BCG 2013 convenience store survey; BCG analysis), compared customers’ stated importance of various customer satisfaction attributes against customers’ derived importance from their actual buying behavior.  By contrasting these two responses, BCG was able to separate customer experience attributes into two basic categories: delighters and differentiators.  Delighters are the attributes customers claim are important to them in survey responses, but provide little impact to their actual buying behavior.  Conversely, differentiators are the attributes that align both with what customers say are important to them and influence their purchasing.

    To highlight, BCG asked consumers about more than 30 attributes that affect their purchasing decisions and about their satisfaction regarding more than 35 top c-store brands. Then used customer wallet share as a proxy for overall performance, they found that c-store brands that outperform on differentiating attributes also capture a higher share of wallet. BCG research indicates that those with the highest score on differentiators capture 33% percent share of wallet, whereas the share of those with the lowest capture only 18% by comparison.

     

    stated_derived-chart

    They are attributes that consumers directly indicate are important and that measurably affect how those consumers think about the brand. For example, consumers top attribute is cleanliness and it’s a differentiating attribute that drives consumer satisfaction and subsequently retailers’ ROI.

    The top 5 Differentiators are:

    1. Cleanliness
    2. Safety
    3. Speed and ease
    4. Friendliness
    5. Fuel price

    Differentiating attributes were found to be highly valued but perceived by consumers as relatively rare—the basis of distinction for c-stores that may translate into better performance and a higher share of wallet.

    Even though it may seem surprising that some of these attributes have not yet become standard staples in the industry. Evidence suggests that these attributes will continue to be determinant in the foreseeable future.

    Many c-store brands are still not consistently meeting the basic consumer demands for the convenience format. It is critical to remember that consumers require brands to deliver those essentials before they give loyalty to c-stores that invest in differentiator attributes.

    Delighters top 3 attributes are:

    1. Quality Fresh Food and Coffee
    2. Low Prices
    3. Loyalty Programs

    In contrast, top delighters are welcomed but not expected by consumers; delighters attributes are a potential future basis of distinction for retailers. For example, some c-stores are stocking good-quality, fresh food—pleasantly surprising many consumers and enabling some retailers to lay the foundations for future competitive advantage. Consumers do not yet consider delighter attributes to be primary reasons for choosing one brand over another.

    Ultimately buyer transaction data tells us these dollars would be better spent on differentiators identified above to more directly influence consumer purchasing behavior.

    Top c-store brands are capturing all customer share by focusing on differentiators that drive consumer behavior. The key to future success in convenience retail hinges on the ability to determine which attributes are or will be sources of differentiation and which only delight customers. Those that build their strategies around the differentiators will secure top leadership, capturing up to twice the share of wallet as those that do not.

    Convenience brands should always be developing new areas of differentiation to stay ahead of consumer needs and secure their future basis for competitive advantage. At CAF Environmental Solutions we are poised as a leader in cleaning solutions to provide a key component differentiator in keeping your stores clean. CAF Products are effective, easy to use and save money.  As your cleaning expert, we will help you to improve your store’s appearance and, in turn, increase your bottom line!

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