• February 1, 2013
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

On the Right Track

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Customer interactions with RaceTrac Petroleum go far beyond the simple gas-and-go.

After a year-long pilot program in a few of its stores, the retailer last March implemented a new guest survey program from Mindshare Technologies across all 325 of its gas station and convenience store locations in Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi. Each store averages about 5,000 square feet and carries about 4,000 grocery and retail items.

Mindshare customized the product specifically for RaceTrac, which is based in Atlanta. Called RightTrac, the system allows RaceTrac to continuously gather customer feedback and respond to customer needs in real time.

RightTrac is an online survey system with about 20 questions. The retailer promotes the surveys on the bottom of each customer receipt. As an incentive, RaceTrac frequently offers free or discounted products at the end of the survey. This has the added benefit of exposing patrons to products they might not otherwise buy, according to Brad Galland, director of market research at RaceTrac.

RaceTrac began piloting Mindshare's software at the beginning of 2011 and measured the program against several guest satisfaction system providers before ultimately deciding on Mindshare. "This system allows us to accurately capture guest feedback and make improvements to our stores going forward. Mindshare's immediate approach to feedback management and the flexibility of the technology is what ultimately set the program apart," says Mark Reese, vice president of operations at RaceTrac.

RaceTrac received more than 55,000 customer reviews in the first three months after the rollout, and more than 300,000 survey responses for the year.

Prior to installing the Mindshare feedback tool, RaceTrac employed a mystery shopping program, but Galland found it to be too limited in its scope.

"Mindshare has provided us with incredible amounts of data directly from our guests," he says. "Because the data is not filtered through a third party, we have a much better picture of reality in our stores."

RaceTrac's operational teams take the customer feedback gathered from the surveys and combine it with other data, including overall satisfaction and Net Promoter Scores, to measure stores against one another and the competition.

"This new firsthand feedback has helped RaceTrac successfully provide consistent and enjoyable experiences for our guests," Reese says.

To keep the surveys fresh, RaceTrac is working on refining the process. "We are currently…updating our survey to be more specific and directional for our operations team," Galland says.

"In the future, we'll continue exploring additional options, such as text analytics for assistance with open-ended comments," Galland adds. "Once we have updated the surveys, we intend to pull the HR and financial components to measure against turnover ratios and individual store financials to determine what metrics are affecting others.

"The ultimate goal has been, and continues to be, total integration with operations, human resources, and various other departments for a complete view of performance," he says.

For RaceTrac, that's the basis of a competitive edge, according to Mindshare's chief experience officer, Lonnie Mayne. "They already have the track record and the people in place to provide an exceptional customer experience, so adding a program that delivers immediate guest insights for the front-line store team members to act on directly puts the company at a serious advantage," he said in a statement.

Galland likes that the system allows RaceTrac to consolidate and manage feedback into one robust solution. "By incorporating this system, RaceTrac now has the ability to make more informed business decisions as well as create a consistent experience across our stores for our guests," he adds.

Installing the system was, of course, not without its share of hurdles. "As is to be expected, there have been some learning opportunities for us as we adjust the survey questionnaire [and] determine what the appropriate incentives are for guests and how to best integrate the program and data into everyday decisions," Galland says.

For that reason, he recommends that other companies looking to implement a similar program take their time, explore all of their options, and involve people from all parts of their companies. "The assistance of a dedicated internal team has been integral, and RaceTrac would not have been as far along as we are without that team," he says.

The Payoff

Since installing a customer surveying system from Mindshare Technologies, RaceTrac Petroleum has been able to:

  • collect direct feedback from 55,000 patrons in the first three months; and
  • collect direct feedback from more than 300,000 patrons in the first year.

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