With the average c-store shopper visiting the same outlet three times per week, it’s no wonder that good customer service is a high priority for shoppers, writes HIM’s Louise Howarth. So the question must be asked, what exactly does good customer service mean within the convenience channel?

A good person to ask would be Jennifer Kerr, from Spar Saintfield Road in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, who won Convenience Store’s prestigious Sales Assistant of the Year Award last week. Her skills have set her apart from the rest and HIM sends her our congratulations.

HIM data suggests that increasingly busy lives mean three in four shoppers want to get in and out of store as quickly as possible. This means time is of the essence when it comes to service, and staff training should duly reflect this in order to keep the modern shopper happy.

Staff knowledge is another vital tool in ensuring our busy shopper has a seamless in store experience, as a good understanding of the store’s layout and merchandising selection is important to those hurried shoppers in search of a particular product.

Since 2014 we’ve seen a huge leap in the proportion of shoppers who said they chose a particular store based on the friendliness and helpfulness of staff, rising from 26% in 2014 up to 39% this year. In a world where shopping is becoming less of an experience and more of a transactional process, convenience continues to stand out as a place where shoppers get a sense of being known, of being an individual.

Getting the basics right is most important for meeting shopper needs in terms of ‘excellent customer service’. In general, c-store shoppers agree that staff members being “friendly and polite” is most important while in store. Of course, a tailored approach must be taken as preferences differ by store location. For example, c-store shoppers in the north of the country tend to rate “having a chat” with staff members as higher in the excellence scale, while those in the south prefer fast service.

Without doubt, providing great service and a personable shopping experience is a fantastic USP which c-stores should strive to maintain in the UK’s competitive grocery environment.