Customer Service Trumps Everything

Jim Knight rocks NACS Show 2019 with tips for creating a memorable customer experience.

October 02, 2019

ATLANTA—Creating unforgettable moments is key to achieving rock star status in the retail industry. Convenience store operators who are serious about amping up their businesses should stock their stores with people who can create these moments, according to Jim Knight, who oversaw global training for Hard Rock International for two decades.

Knight kicked off the NACS Show 2019 Tuesday with a high-energy, rock-n-roll-themed keynote that described how every customer is searching for differentiated service—they crave it.

“People are coming in to spend disposable income. They don’t need you. They are choosing you,” Knight said.

But creating this type of service isn’t something you can fake. It has to start below the surface with a shared mindset where everyone is focused on the same thing. It’s about choosing the right people and then training them in the way they should go. It’s about surrounding yourself with what Knight described as an army of giants.

“Behaviors cannot be canned or fake. All the training in the world can’t fix a bad hire,” he said. “But there are rock stars that live among us. I want [to hire] people obsessed about the brand. I want people in the memory-making business.”

Knight called brand associates the amplifier of a business. Without them, everything falls flat. Strive to hire associates who have the three Cs: Solid competence, strong character and culture fit. Unique people create unique experiences, he said. But you have to have people smart enough and competent enough to create that feeling.

Once you find the right people and get them all singing off the same sheet of music, they are in the position to create mind-searing experiences. They should treat each person special, like it’s a first date or first day of work. He asked the audience to recall the amount of effort they put into getting ready for their first date or the optimistic attitude they had that first day of work. Associates should bring that “first-time-thunder” level of effort and detail to work with them every day.

Creating this differentiated service happens through personalized and customized attention, developing an emotional attachment with customers.

“Authentic customer-obsession creates lifelong raving fans,” Knight said. “It generates a feeling of ‘I want more of that’ with your customers.”

If you really want to blow people away, products and atmosphere are not enough, Knight added. To take it to the next level, you have to crank it to 11 by adding—and emphasizing—service and value.

“It’s not enough to be fast and cheap. Service trumps everything—product, price, convenience, theme, tech—it always has, and it always will,” Knight said.