Wawa rules!

Posted on 14. Apr, 2010 by in Customer Relationships

Wawa gas stations and convenience stores offer a really good value in convenience food!  Scattered throughout the northeast corridor from their headquarters in Wawa, Pennsylvania, Wawa convenience stores offer a wide variety of prepared-to-order foods.  And that’s what stimulated this blog entry.

I happen to be a big fan of their “built to order” breakfast sandwiches – their “Breakfast Hoagie” to be exact.  Their kitchens interact with customers by means of nifty computer terminals which allow a customer to totally personalize his/her order.  The sandwiches are always delivered to the exact specifications of the customer, making him or her feel totally in control.  But here’s where Wawa’s Chairman, Howard Stoeckel, I think is missing a real opportunity.

Strengthening Customer Relationships

In my book, Aftermarketing, I urge marketers to consider ways in which they can strengthen relationships with customers by building “learning customerbases”.  This means accumulating information from customers at every interaction.  This information is then carried forward and used to better meet the customer’s needs in the future.  Ultimately, the customer becomes so dependent on how what the marketer knows about his/her likes and dislikes that it’s inconceivable that any other business in a category could better satisfy him/her.

And this is where Wawa and Chairman Stoeckel could further improve their already great ordering process.  Since a typical Wawa store allows the customer to input his or her own special desires for a sandwich by computer terminal, why not remember the ingredients of a particular sandwich, allowing a customer to name it and order it by name on return visits?  This means on my next visit to my local Wawa I could simply order a “Terry”… or more realistically perhaps a “Terry Morning” (since duplicates would have to be prevented).  Imagine the competition among groups of early morning customers who are each promoting the virtues of their own privately “branded” sandwiches!

Accumulating Information: Learning Customer Relationships

In learning customer relationships, the bond between the customer and marketer is strengthened by the intimate knowledge the marketer accumulates about the customer.  But the trick is in not attempting to gather all of the information at once; it’s time consuming and very often presumptuous that a customer trusts the marketer enough to provide extensive information in one interaction.  A more realistic scenario is to accumulate some information each time the customer interacts.  This gives the marketer the opportunity to show the customer, along the way, that his/her volunteered information is not being exploited or misused.  Rather, the knowledge the customer has shared, is being used to serve him or her better.  This increases the likelihood that the customer will continue to share information and my ultimately offer up very private or personal facts, because trust has been established.

Allowing customers to individually “brand” their favorite sandwiches with a personalized name, is an excellent example how to further strengthen the relationship between customers and Wawa.  Projecting this into the future, Wawa might even consider making suggestions for other sandwiches a customer might enjoy based on the similarity of ingredients with other customers’ personalized sandwiches.

Success in today’s market is all about strengthening bonds with the customers – showing them a company or brand wants to serve them better and knows them far better than anyone else…Wawa is on track to successfully building strong relationships!

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