As c-store operators it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of running your business. But the end of the year is a good time to step back, take stock and set goals for the future. Here are 7 easy and attainable relationship-building resolutions you’ll want to keep.
Developing a social media presence is an effective way to connect with customers and build community. In fact, 70% of Canadians follow at least one brand or company on social media, with 87% of millennials saying they do so, according to the 2019 Canadian Social Media Insights report from Insights West. Their research shows Facebook (59%) is the most dominant space for brand interaction, followed by Instagram at 27%. If you’re an owner/operator licensee, it’s not enough that your parent company has a social media presence. Think local and create your own account to connect with your community or highlight in-store promotions and contests.
2. Face it
In this digital world, it’s easier to fire off an email than it is to make a phone call or meet face to face. But, there’s no substitute for the real thing. Set aside time—perhaps the first Monday of the month—to meet with in person with one of your vendors or business contacts. Your business will benefit. Research reported in the Harvard Business Review shows face-to-face requests are 34 times more effective than emailed ones—there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned eye contact, a smile and a handshake.
3. Reduce plastic
Canadians are heavily in favour of a ban on single-use plastics—56% support a total ban on single-use plastics, while 25% somewhat support a ban, according to Nanos Research. In fact, most would be willing to pay a small premium for environmentally sustainable products. Don’t wait for government mandates: Take the lead by offering alternatives to plastic straws, cutlery and stir sticks. And, make sure to communicate to your customers why you’re making these changes.
4. Hit refresh
Those old posters hanging in the store window or around your checkout counter aren’t doing you any favours. Same with the outdated photos and product information on your website. Don’t wait for spring for a big clean up. New year, new start: Now is a perfect time for a refresh.
5. Celebrate staff
So much effort goes into keeping customers happy and coming back for more, but what about employees? Rewarding and motivating staff should be a year-round endeavor (if it’s not, now is the time to get started) but after the madness of the holiday season, January is the perfect time for a little staff bonding. A group outing, a meal or even an in-house awards ceremony goes a long way towards making sure the people you rely on to operate your business know how much you value their contributions. Kick off things with a state-of-the-union address by sharing details about your business accomplishments and goals for the coming year. People can only buy into and support your vision when they know what it is.
6. Give back
Your community supports your business, but how are you supporting your community? Community engagement lays the foundation for a loyal customer base and it’s a fantastic way to give back and motivate staff— one study shows that employers who "consulted and included" their employees regarding charitable giving saw a 13% increase in employee productivity. Do your research (crowdsource ideas from customers and staff) to connect with a cause, charity or event that will strengthen ties to the community. Employees and customers respect companies that give back.
7. Reward customers
Loyalty programs help retailers build and maintain relationships with customers. There are loyalty ideas for operations big and small: It can be as simple as a punch card for a free coffee or a loyalty app that empowers your business to collect information about customers’ shopping habits and offer promotions that cater to their needs. Either way, such efforts cultivate loyalty and drive customer engagement.