- The Extra Mile
- Customer Experience
The BP Service Station building strong customer relationships - even through the most challenging times
Despite 15 years of experience in retail, nothing could have prepared customer service assistant Lauren May for the last couple of years. But, no matter how tough things got during the pandemic and the fuel crisis, her team pulled together – April’s honourable mention tells us why she is so proud of her store.
Hi Lauren! Congratulations on your honourable mention – can you tell us a little bit about your store?
We’re a BP service station near Maidstone town centre. I think the thing that makes our store a bit different is the sheer range of customers we have. We’re close to the motorway; obviously, we get a lot of customers coming in for fuel, but we’re also near a primary school, so we get loads of school-run parents popping in for their coffee every morning. We’re in a residential area, so many older locals walk over to buy their daily newspaper. And we also sell M&S food, so there’s always a stream of regulars dropping by for a little bit of shopping or a schoolkid coming in to buy some sweets. We really do see it all!
So how do you build relationships with your customers?
A store’s character is essentially the relationships you build. We pay attention and work hard to get to know our locals and regulars. One of my colleagues has a superpower for recognising cars and remembering coffee orders – when one of her customers drives onto the forecourt; she has their drink on the go before the door even opens. We do things with the local primary school, too; we organised an Easter egg hunt in the middle of lockdown that they could do safely, and the employees’ children drew the eggs and clues. It was brilliant to bring the community together when times were hard.
You mentioned lockdown – things have been tough between the pandemic and the fuel crisis. How does your team stay motivated?
We don’t have a high turnover, and that’s helped us build a stable, steady team where we lean on each other. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and back each other up. If a customer has car problems and a team member maybe doesn’t know much about cars, they don’t need to ask for help – someone will just step in.
It hasn’t always been plain sailing – customers under stress and pressure aren’t always kind – but the whole team is always there for each other. We’ve learned to be patient with each other and with our customers. And of course, they pick us up too. During the lockdown, we had a little girl come in every week to collect newspapers for her elderly neighbours who couldn’t get out – we’re surrounded by lovely people in this community, and we just want to do our best for them.
So what’s the secret? How do you build a team like that?
You know, I’ve worked in retail for a long time now and this is the best team I’ve ever worked with. That’s down to the people and the fantastic community we serve, but it’s also down to our brilliant managers. In this day and age, it shocks me that some managers still think of their people as numbers. Our store shows the power of training people, upskilling them and trusting them to do the right thing. When you put that in place, a store becomes more than somewhere to buy petrol and milk: it’s a family, a safe place where we care for each other and our customers. It’s special – and that’s why I’m proud of my store!
Lauren and her incredible BP team are nominated for an award at this year's Proud of My Store Awards 2022. If you are a retailer and would like to attend, please register your interest here.