A Cup Of Coffee: More Than A Transaction

Wawa, for those who don't know, is a chain of 700 + convenience stores along the east coast of the United States that offers fresh food and made-to-order sandwiches, coffee, beverages and in many locations gasoline, all at very competitive prices. All the stores are company-owned and the company is privately-held. In 1803 the business started as an iron foundry. (How they got from a metal foundry to convenience stores can be read on their website.)

My point, however, is not to promote the company but to note how, despite a 1,000 mile footprint, Wawa employees are genuinely and consistently engaging and helpful. I don't know how they do it but I do know one thing - it's really hard to train someone who isn't naturally nice to learn how to be that way. And to practice it on a daily basis, at a retail level where not every customer is nice. They obviously hire "nice." Employees appear to take pride in where they work. The company isn't perfect and not every employee is either, but once you go into Wawa you won't go anywhere else. Did I mention that they've been in business in some form for 200+ years?

A case in point: an older guy I know lost his wife a few years ago. He started going to his local Wawa every day for his take out coffee. Then he'd go home and read the paper and do the crossword puzzle. For many days that was his lone exposure to people outside his home. One day, a couple years later, he was off for some reason, a little unsteady. The guy behind the coffee counter noticed, asked him if he was OK and got him a bottle of water. He also got him a chair to sit in and kept an eye on him. The manager checked up on him and my friend was able to get his bearings and his coffee and make his way home safely 45 minutes later. Turns out the older gentleman was dehydrated, and the bottle of water made all the difference in the world.

Do you think this guy is going anywhere else - ever - for a cup of coffee?

Wawa did the right thing. Specifically it was an employee named Michael. Didn't over react, didn't under react. Just right. Could they have called 911? Sure. But they didn't because they knew they didn't have to. They'd been seeing this gentleman for the past 400 days. They knew him in an intuitive way, and not just as a transaction from a repeat customer. Even if your customers are large industrial organizations, with multiple buying influences - know your customers well. It's worth it for sure.

How are you treating your customers? Particularly when they are having an off day. Are they a 79 cent transaction or a valuable customer? How would you want to be treated if the roles were reversed? The ability to be compassionate and observant doesn't require a corporate training course. Sometimes all it requires is a little thought and bottle of water.


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