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Credit: PHOTO BY DUKE PHOTOGRAPHY / GRAPHIC BY NICK ORABOVIC

 

When it’s time to fuel up and grab a snack, Rick Chafey says nothing is better than QuikTrip.

“Their attention to detail is incredible, just across the board,” explains the owner of Red Rock Pools in Gilbert, Ariz.

That attention plays out in a variety of ways, including customer service, efficiency and product variety. Though Chafey says each of those areas sets QuikTrip apart from the competition, he adds that it’s the company’s devotion to improvement in even the tiniest touches that makes it an inspiration to his own business.

Perhaps the most noticeable, and most unique, of QuikTrip’s innovations is its point-of-sale setup.

Instead of the typical arrangement of one employee per cash register per line, QuikTrip has re-imagined the entire checkout process from the ground up.

“We have three or four cash registers per location, and each employee at the register is typically dealing with two lines of people at once,” explains Mike Thornbrugh, manager of public and government affairs at QuikTrip in Tulsa, Okla. Not only does this setup increase checkout speed — it allows each employee the chance to interact with the customer at the front of one line while another’s payment is being processed.

Even so, such a system is only as effective as the people who staff it — and QuikTrip takes care to excel in that department as well. The company encourages its employees to greet every guest who steps through the door, and take time to make small talk during the checkout process. “We make a point of hiring bright, energetic multi-taskers,” he says. “A lot of that friendliness comes from their own common sense.”

Another admired aspect of the chain is its dedication to variety. Most convenience stores carry one or two products from a given supplier, but QuikTrip often stocks as many choices as are available. “From snacks to fountain drinks, they do a really good job of carrying a wide selection,” Chafey says. “They even have two different types of ice.”

Though many of these adaptations are uniquely suited to the convenience store industry, the thinking they reflect can provide lessons for any professional. “Whether you’re a convenience store or a pool builder,” Chafey says, “understanding customer concerns is one of the hardest aspects of any business — and also the most important.”

And there’s an even broader lesson Chafey takes from QuikTrip’s success: True leaders don’t just try to beat the competition — instead, they focus on constant improvement in every aspect of their business.

“We check our system continually to make sure our employees are greeting and helping customers, being friendly and so on,” Thornbrugh says. In short, the company is always looking for ways to improve its service.

By contrast, Chafey cites another leading convenience store chain in his area, whose continued market dominance led to a gradual drop in attention to detail, and in the company’s overall drive to improve. But ever since QuikTrip brought a more popular business model to town, the competing chain has worked to conform to the new higher standards.

That example, Chafey says, demonstrates why regular self-analysis and fine-tuning are crucial for a businessperson in any line of work. “Instead of trying to chase down someone who can show you how to do it better, you need to make sure you’re doing it better in the first place,” he says. “You want to be the leader at all times.”