Our local convenience store a block away has a loopy name that took some getting used to: Wawa.
Started as a dairy in 1902 in Wawa, Pa., the company has nearly 600 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, with a total of 17,000 employees.
Our Wawa is open all the time, spotless, stocked with basic foodstuffs you need when you need them and manned by incredibly nice people. In addition, 157 of the stores sell gasoline.
We recently returned from 12 days in Italy, and the bankers nicked us for an international transaction fee on top of every credit card charge, even though everything is electronic and automatic. The financial services industry is basically a business of sharks eating its customers alive any way it can.
Wawa is not in the financial services business. It is a world-class retailer. If a customer uses one of its ATM machines, chances are some of the cash will be used for an in-store purchase. So in 1996 management opted to charge no fees on Automatic Teller Machine usage by customers. The result:
- 1 billion ATM transactions in 14 years
- $1.3 billion in ancillary income forfeited
- Happy Wawa customers spent $4.7 billion in 2007
MBAs would call this CRM—customer retention management
I also call it CRM—customer relationship magic.
Are you doing anything to make your customers feel real good about doing business with you?
If not, why not?
We’ve had bum luck with US Airways recently. When we flew to Paris in 2008, the plane had mechanical problems and took off late. Just before crossing the Atlantic, an announcement was made from the cockpit that the mechanical problem had resurfaced and we were heading back to Philly. A replacement plane was found and we arrived in Paris 12 hours late.
At the end of March we were scheduled to fly to Rome—same waiting room, same gate—and were 4-½ hours late taking off, also on a substitute plane.
The airlines have been catching hell lately from the media and traveling public for various perceived transgressions:
- Intolerable waits on the tarmac with no food, no water, no air conditioning and overflowing potties.
- Fees not only for the second checked bag, but also the first.
- The possibility of potty charges.
- Outrageously high cancellation and rebooking fees.
- Extra charges for desirable seats.
- Now you pay for the crappy food.
- $7 for a pillow and blanket set.
- Spirit Airlines recently announced that a carry-on in the overhead compartment would cost $45. (Mercifully US Airways and four other airlines just announced they would not charge for carry-ons.)
So it was a pleasant surprise when my wife Peggy received the following e-mail from U.S. Airways on our return from Italy:
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Hatch:
We are truly sorry for the inconvenience caused by the delay of flight 718 from Philadelphia to Rome on March 29, 2010 and for the impact this unexpected situation had on our valued customers. We recognize you expect reliable, convenient service and realize we fell short of that standard for your flight.
A thorough investigation of this incident revealed that the flight was delayed due to a mechanical issue with the aircraft. As the safety of our passengers and crew is our number one priority, we would not operate an aircraft that compromises this objective. Prior to departure, every aircraft must undergo numerous system checks by both certified mechanical and flight personnel before they are given clearance to depart.
To convey our apologies we have authorized a $150 Electronic Travel with Us Voucher (E-TUV) for each traveler in your party as expression of our regret for any inconvenience you may have experienced. We hope you will allow US Airways another opportunity to regain your confidence …
Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.