Chevron Wins Back-to-Back Titles

ExtraMile stores top CSP/Service Intelligence Mystery Shop for second year

Andrew Magee, Freelance writer

Editor's Note: This is the first story in a two-part series revealing the results of this year's CSP/Service Intelligence Mystery Shop survey.

SAN RAMON, Calif. -- Chevron Corp. edged out some of the industry's most heralded brands in the fourth annual CSP/Service Intelligence Mystery Shop survey, which was conducted from March 29 through April 29, 2008.

The study measured the customer experience delivered by 10 c-store brands. After reviewing standards and completing training exercises, mystery shoppers answered 31 questions designed to measure brand performance [image-nocss] in four key areas: customer service, merchandising, exterior and interior cleanliness and employee appearance.

The brands selected included:

Fas Mart/Shore Stop Kangaroo (The Pantry) RaceTrac Chevron's ExtraMile ExxonMobil's On the Run Stripes (Susser Holdings) Kwik Trip Casey's General Stores Quik Trip Valero

In a competition in which fractions of a% determined rank, Chevron proved resilient in all five of the survey's major categories, taking No. 1 for customer service, exterior cleanliness and for the study's overall standing. The company took second for merchandising and third for both employee appearance and interior brand.

The methodology of the survey did not differentiate between company-operated and franchisee-run stores, so unlike last year when ExtraMile sites were solely direct operations, this year, franchisees became part of the mix.

While other major oil companies retreat from retail operations, Chevron has dug its heels in and retained a strong, direct-op presence while developing a franchise base that follows Chevron's best practices.

"We are creating a retail culture in a major oil company. I'm really proud of that," Danny Roden, marketing vice president for the Americas, Chevron Corp., told CSP Daily News. "We have a very thoroughand systematic approach which our franchisees are buying into."

In describing the company's methods and culture, Roden said Chevron has a core cleaning process in terms of the stores' interiors and exteriors. "It goes from the customer back. It's about great customer service and being clean, safe and reliable in everything we do," he said. "We're creating a vibrant retail environment."

Most of the chains reviewed in the study also conduct their own mystery-shop programs that gauge performance in the same categories eyeballed by CSP/Service Intelligence.

"The results are real close to what our internal people find," said John McHugh, director of corporate communications for La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip. KT scored second place in the "overall performance" category. "Last year when we got the results, it helped us hone in on some areas where we needed to improve. An example is exterior cleanliness."

Rounding out the top five in overall performance were Tulsa, Okla.-based QuikTrip; Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey's; and Atlanta's RaceTrac.

Monday, CSP Daily News will unveil the winner of the coveted "cleanest restrooms" honor. Look for more results from the CSP/Service Intelligence Mystery Shop in the August issue of CSP magazine.For more coverage, please click here.