The secret behind Kent Couch’s well-oiled customer-service machine is pretty easy. For starters, no “robots” need apply, just energetic personalities wearing “big, bright smiles.”

Success also means hiring individuals seeking second and perhaps, third chances in life. They harbor an inherent desire to flip their script, and also make optimal store ambassadors.

Couch’s script as owner of Stop and Go Mini Mart/Shell, Bend, Ore., is a winning one. All 38 either full- or part-time employees go the extra mile to make customer lives easier, he says. It starts with staff adorned in folded white hats and white slacks, a staff that addresses customers by name more often than not. It continues with the offering of full-service fueling, no self-service provided.

“I think people want to be taken care of,” says Couch, whose family-run business includes his wife and two grown children. “When COVID-19 hit, many folks were down in the dumps. Our staff is trained to not be robots, but are attuned to really talk to people.”

A proprietary delivery program provides a good bump in sales, but profits are low, Couch said. “We believe we can reach more customers this way, and maybe some will convert to in-store clientele,” says Couch, who invested in a fourth transaction register as delivery sales spiked this past year.
His next venture? “A drive-thru retail store, one where customers literally drive through the interior to buy food and beverages,” he says.

Kent Couch (second from left) and his family at Stop and Go Mini Mart.