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Shhhh — it’s a secret

Shhhh — it’s a secret “The customer is always right.” In retail, this phrase is viewed as the epitome of customer service. Keeping customers happy is what keeps them coming back to your store again and again. But that is getting to be more difficult these days.

Consumers have high demands when it comes to convenience and purchases. They value their hard-earned money and don’t want to be hassled to locate items or prices in a store. So how do retailers learn about their customer base without polling everyone who walks in the door?

They hire mystery, or secret, shoppers.

Mystery shoppers are people local to a geographic area who earn money by shopping at different stores in order to gain knowledge about how the store is managed, how well customers are treated by employees, how convenient it is to locate items, how clean the store is and other details that provide a good shopping experience for consumers.

Creek Convenience Store Wetumpka (CCSW) always seeks to give its customers the best and uses mystery shoppers three times per year.

“Quality of service is key in any business, and we strive to implement practices that reflect exceptional customer service,” Tribal member and General Manager Ellis Martin said. The past three scores came in at 83.3 percent, 83.3 percent and 100 percent satisfaction rates.

Employees and managers never know when mystery shoppers are present, but the value of what is learned from them helps the business gain insight in how to improve the store. Martin said the incentive of having this information is to boost productivity and increase customer satisfaction.

“I think about when I go to a store, what makes me happy or less satisfied when I leave,” he said. “Is it the ease of access to what I’m looking for? Is it how well an employee handled a question I have? Can I even find an employee to help me look for something? If I wouldn’t be happy shopping here, how can I expect others to be?”

According to secretshopper.com, managers get an honest, in-depth look at the business through the eyes of its customers. Secret shoppers are good at pretending. They engage employees in conversation, as a customer, and make note of what is said and done. They usually come back repeatedly, with a different or similar purpose each time.

“It really is a cool way to know what people think of your business,” Martin said.

By Jen Peake
CIEDA Marketing Specialist

Huge Turnout for customer appreciation at CCSW

Turnout Huge at CCSW Event An hour before the event even started, people were lined up around the building at Creek Convenience Store Wetumpka (CCSW) for a chance to win a $100,000 jackpot and other giveaway prizes.

In May, CCSW hosted a customer appreciation event to thank all the loyal patrons who visit the store on a regular basis. As an incentive to stop by, CCSW's promotion involved a third-party prize machine in which guests had up to seven chances to spin the reels to see what prize they won.

Everyone won something, including a few luxury items, such as a drone, GPS device, digital camera and a headset. Other prizes were car coasters for cup holders, sun shades, lunch boxes, koozies and more. Originally planned to last just two hours, the promotion was extended until everyone who was in line made it in the store to spin the machine and win.

"We were incredibly surprised at how many people showed up," General Manager Ellis Martin said. "Our customers are some of the best people around. They were all eager to spin the machine and see if they could win a jackpot. We are so glad this event was a super success."

Wind Creek Hospitality provided its food truck to feed the couple hundred people who milled around the store and waited to participate. Many patrons remarked about how excited they were to be a part of the promotion.

"Waiting in line is nothing if I win," one guest said.

Others said it wasn't just about the chance to win big; they were just happy to win a few different items and possibly a luxury gift.

"If I win that drone, I'll be happy," one mom said. "That's a great Christmas present for my kids."

By Jen Peake
CIEDA Marketing Specialist

CCSW: A higher standard of retail

CCSW: A higher standard of retail Retail is a difficult business to thrive in sometimes. Changing trends, supplying what the customer wants and being unique enough in a niche market are a challenge in this competitive industry.

That's why Creek Convenience Store Wetumpka (CCSW) stands out against the big chain gas stations in the area.

"We hold our store and employees to a higher standard," General Manager of CCSW Ellis Martin said. "Our customer service, our products and the maintenance of the store is a high priority and top-notch (compared to other convenience store operations). Our drive-through service is also something we excel in. Not all stores are as efficient as we are, and many don't even offer drive-through service."

Martin is a Tribal Member, and a quick glance around the store and property shows he knows what he's talking about. The grounds are well-manicured, and the store and bathrooms are exceptionally cleaner than most public places. The items on shelves are lined up properly, and nothing seems out of place. You can even find Indian-related items for sale, such as Indian dolls, hand-made purses, Poarch Creek logo items (hats, shirts, cups) and more.

"I've been in the business for almost seven years," Martin said. "Interacting with the customers has been one of the most rewarding experiences, getting to know them as a person and learning what they like is how to make a better business so they enjoy coming here.

"We have had CCSW for only a year, but we are learning new things every day and constantly improving," he said.

CCSW employs 10 full-time workers, all who receive a full benefits package, 401(k), paid vacation and sick time. That, Martin said, is another way CCSW is different. Most gas stations don't offer benefits or paid time off, let alone a retirement plan.

Martin said working with his employees on the floor and in the office is what he enjoys most about his job as a manager.

"My daily routine consists of paperwork, of course; cigarette and gas pricing, dealing with vendors. But conversing with and teaching my employees about high quality customer service is why I come to work."

CCSW sells Shell brand gasoline, as do the two other stations owned and managed by Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority (Creek Convenience Store Atmore and Creek Travel Plaza, both in Atmore). All three stations also participate in the Fuel Rewards Network (FRN), where customers can redeem points for cents off gas.

According to Shell Oil Co., it boasts the largest retail gasoline network in the U.S., with more than 14,700 branded stores. Shell also is the largest participant in FRN.

"Selling high-quality fuel at low prices also helps us stay competitive," Martin said. "But our customer service and inventory is by far our pride and joy."

By Jen Peake
CIEDA Marketing Specialist

CCSW turns 1

ccsw_turns_1 Creek Convenience Store Wetumpka (CCSW) celebrated its one-year anniversary in June, and to observe the milestone, CCSW threw a Customer Appreciation Bash in honor of those who keep the business alive.

General Manager Ellis Martin invited the public to stop by the store and hang out with employees. A number of venues provided entertainment for the guests. On hand was the NASCAR No. 22 Shell show car, which represents the car driven by NASCAR driver Joey Logano, and a racing simulator game gave participants the experience of what it’s like to drive a race car.

Country music by radio DJ Wes McShay from 92.3 WLWI could be heard throughout the property, and the Good To Go food truck from Wind Creek Hospitality supplied folks with hot dogs, barbecue sandwiches, chips and drinks. Wind Creek Wetumpka also provided a huge tent with tables, chairs and fans so customers could be out of the heat and enjoy their lunch and time with each other.

ccsw_turns_1b In addition to entertainment, a prize table was set up for people to win instant prizes, such as fans, hats, T-shirts and other items, and to register for a grand prize drawing — an overnight stay at Wind Creek Wetumpka and dinner for two at The Fire. Martin said the event was a success.

“We appreciate our customers, and we had a huge turnout,” Martin said. “Even those who knew nothing about the event — those just stopping to buy cigarettes or get gas — stayed a while and enjoyed themselves.”

An estimated 300 visitors attended the celebration and partook in the various activities.

“A big thanks to Wind Creek Wetumpka and Wind Creek Hospitality for lending their services to our event,” Martin said. “Without the tent and fans, people would have baked in the hot sun, and without the seating arrangements, they would be standing up to eat,” he said. “And our grand prize winner will get to enjoy Wind Creek Wetumpka and all it has to offer, thanks to their donation.”

CCSW first opened as a smoke shop, selling cigarettes and tobacco products from a trailer onsite. It since has grown into a full-fledged convenience store and gas station, selling, snacks, drinks, souvenirs and Poarch Creek logo gear and just about anything a traveler might need while driving around town, as well as adding six gas pumps and two drive-through windows for faster service.

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