Retail Customer Experience

10 August 2017 — The top consumer choices when it comes to gassing up the vehicle at a wholesaler is Costco and Wawa when it comes to grocery stores, according to a Market Force Information study which polled 7,000 consumers. While most vehicle owners still hit local gas station and convenience stores, wholesale clubs and grocers boasting pumps are gaining ground, according to a release on the study. Wawa ranked highest with 68 percent when it comes to preferred gas stations and convenience stores, edging out QuikTrip, which took the top spot in the 2014 study. QuikTrip was second with a score of 62 percent and Sheetz was third with 59 percent, stated the release.

Date: Thursday, August 10, 2017

Creating a CX Measurement Program That Works: It’s Not About the Score!

A Common Mistake—Focusing on the Wrong Target

When I was a franchise operator, the franchisor was excited about creating a successful new CX survey program. After using the system for a few months, the executives reviewed their progress and identified five key drivers of satisfaction. They believed that if all of their locations would focus on the five drivers, CX scores and revenues would naturally increase. They were so confident this would happen that they decided to set a target score and incentivize the employees so they would hit the target. The incentive was a $.25 per hour raise for every month their restaurant hit the target score.

The program was a success…kind of…well, not really. Yes, all of the locations hit or exceeded the target score and received a $.25 per hour increase in pay (which is highly unlikely and should have raised red flags for all of us).

Determining the drivers. What we should have been doing was figuring out exactly what factors needed to change to deliver an excellent customer experience. We should have been tying both the operational measures that we had collected through either audits or mystery shops and aligned that with what our customers had to say about us via our survey program. This is no trivial exercise. It requires a specific modeling process to understand the linkages between behaviors and perceptions. We just didn’t have the Ph.D. statisticians and data scientists on staff that could help us draw those conclusions—the specific on-site behaviors, that when executed in combination, drive the highest levels of overall satisfaction with our customers—or delighting them.

Tying to financials. My new firm, Market Force Information, leverages just this type of talent and modeling process to help brands understand three things, i) what matters most to its clients' customers, ii) where operational deficiencies exist, and iii) what the specific financial ROI would be for implementing various targeted improvements. This is made possible by incorporating financial measures in the analysis such as same store sales or same store sales growth. It is this kind of analytics that truly provide the strategic insight required to make sound business decisions as to which stores to invest in and what focus that investment should take. I would have loved to have had this available to us.

Focusing on the score. In the case of my company, the big mistake we made was to focus on just the score as opposed to focusing on the behaviors that drove the score. Understanding the importance of "please" and "thank you" or what the specific speed of service needed to be in order to avoid frustrating customers is critical to charting what matters and focusing action plans on how to address them.

Gaming the system. As a result, by incentivizing the employees based on achieving a score, the goal changed from “delivering an amazing customer experience” to “gaming the system so they can make more money.” (Yes, we have seen instances where staff or friends of staff filled out favorable surveys.)

Measuring execution objectively. In order to minimize the problem of gaming the system and to ensure that the survey data that you collect is accurate, you need sufficient fraud protection and detection capabilities as well as other measures of restaurant performance besides just a survey. Having other measures like social media review tracking or mystery shopping ensures that you are getting a much more holistic view of the customer experience. These measures can be aligned with your survey scores to provide assurances that what you are learning in your survey is factual. 

Measuring to improve each location. By leveraging multiple measures and reporting on each key behavior uncovered in the analytics objectively, you’ll be able to see exactly what a restaurant needs to improve upon. All restaurants are not equal. Typically a handful of restaurants consistently execute at a high level, while others are abysmal and reflect poorly on the brand, and most are somewhere in the middle. The challenge is let each location know exactly where they need to improve.

Does this make sense? In the case of my company, it would have been immediately apparent that something was awry if the higher scores did not translate into increased revenues. Our analytics practice has repeatedly seen clear correlations between high scores on both surveys and mystery shops and increased same-store sales performance.

A better way. My learning here was that we should have focused on behaviors instead of scores. In upcoming posts I will offer up exactly how brands can focus on those behaviors that drive change, as well as how to effectively drive change down to the individual restaurant level.

Learn about our Analytics

Troy Mott is a Director of Sales at Market Force and works with restaurant clients to help them understand what matters most to their customers, where they have operational gaps in execution and what specific financial ROI can be derived by implementing specific initiatives.  His experience in working in restaurants and with restaurant executives makes him a sought after resource for operations measurement, customer experience and growth initiatives.

Empower Your Auditors with Eyes:On Mobile App

The Eyes:OnTM mobile app allows your auditors to complete questionnaires with their Android and iOS smartphones and tablets. Geo-location and geo-fencing technologies help auditors easily link to the sites they are evaluating, and auditors can complete their work offline even if connectivity drops. Need photos? Users can attach photographs to questionnaires from their smart phones. 

With just a few clicks, your staff can complete audits and upload directly to the KnowledgeForce® reporting platform. Audits become an additional datastream sitting alongside other brand and location level data like mystery shops, customer surveys, contact center, and social media.

Breakthroughs in Modeling Customer Loyalty: Machine Learning

In February, Forrester Research released its report titled “The Forrester Wave™: Insights Service Providers Q1 2017 | Leaders Emerge in a Nascent Insights Services Market” written by Jennifer Belissent, PhD and Elizabeth Cullen. Forrester included Market Force Information® as a domain-specific insights provider in their consolidated vendor landscape. A graphic from this report calls out Market Force in an ecosystem of industry-specific, domain-specific, and broad insights service provider. We are very proud to be recognized for our innovations in linking customer experience metrics to financial ROI, and a joint video with Forrester presents case studies giving examples of how we do that.

I am one of the data scientists on the Market Force analytics team driving insights innovations in the CX space. We’ve been addressing a thorny modeling issue related to collinearity. Collinearity is a statistical phenomenon in which two (or more) explanatory variables are highly correlated, meaning that one can predict the other. For example, in the retail space, the predictors—associate helpfulness and associate friendliness—can predict customer satisfaction, but they can also predict each other. This creates a situation where the behaviors share explanatory power of customer satisfaction, creating redundancy and causing significant issues with predictors, including their perceived impact on customer satisfaction and the deterioration of integrity within the modeling process.

The presence of collinearity in customer experience data can negatively affect the quality of predictive models and may lead to incorrect or incomplete insights. That means that when those insights are converted to business initiatives, there is potential to focus on the wrong things. The hard work put in by managers and operators will not have the predicted impact. This sounds dismal for multi-location businesses, but innovations in statistics and machine learning have brought predictive modeling techniques to the market that mitigate the impact of collinearity.

Enter LASSO (least absolute shrinkage and selection operator) and ridge regressions. These techniques are machine learning linear regression models that use sophisticated computation analysis to control collinearity and produce the most predictive models possible. The two modeling techniques, each presenting its own unique solution to collinearity, work by computing tens of thousands of algorithmic operations to determine the most predictive combination of coefficients, or weighting, to be applied to each predictor. Both modeling techniques remove collinearity through shrinking the weighting of variables and eliminating the redundant explanatory power of collinear predictors.

In preliminary tests using these machine-learning techniques, Market Force Information has discovered that model predictiveness increases by as much as 10%.  The integration of these sophisticated models has increased the ability to generalize findings and predict future outcomes. This results in clear and productive direction to our clients on where they should focus to improve the customer experience, increase revenue, and reduce costs.

If you would like to discuss how we can help you leverage your CX data to link to a financial ROI, please schedule a briefing or call us at 1-877-329-9621 and we will be glad to discuss!

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Aaron Zelmanow is Senior Data Scientist at Market Force Information with a Master's in Statistics and a background in business operations and finance. Specializing in the retail industry, Aaron provides analytics and actionable insights for clients to maximize customer satisfaction and increase their bottom-line revenue.

Measure Gas Station & Convenience Store Customer Service | Market Force

QuikTrip overtakes Kwik Trip, and Costco surpasses BJ’s in annual study

LOUISVILLE, Colo., April 13, 2017 — QuikTrip and Costco are consumers’ favorite places to fill their gas tanks, according to a new study by Market Force Information® (Market Force). More than 11,000 consumers participated in the annual study, which ranks gas stations in two categories – traditional gas stations and convenience stores, and grocery stores and big-box retailers with gas pumps. The study also reveals trends in food, technology and customer loyalty.

Despite the fact that price is the main driver for selecting a place to fuel, Market Force found that most motorists continue to fill up at conventional gas stations vs. warehouse clubs or grocery store pumps, even though the latter tend to offer a lower price per gallon, particularly when combined with loyalty rewards. For their most recent trip to the pump, 71% of drivers visited a gas station compared to 29% who visited a grocer, warehouse club or big-box retailer. Other key influencers in choosing a fueling stop are good lighting, fuel quality and payment options. 

Graph 1: Most Critical Factors in Deciding Where to Fuel 

QuikTrip is No. 1 Among Gas Stations and C-Stores

Of the gas station and convenience store brands studied, QuikTrip ranks as America’s favorite, overtaking similarly named Kwik Trip, which fell four spots to fifth place. Cumberland Farms – which didn’t earn enough votes in 2016 to make the list – ranked second, while Sheetz moved up this year to rank third and Wawa dropped one place to fourth. Casey’s General Stores and Marathon Oil each gained eight percentage points this year, and Phillips 66 is again the highest-ranking national gas station brand.

Graph 2: Favorite Gas Stations/Convenience Stores 

Oklahoma-based QuikTrip (QT) operates hundreds of convenience stores in the Midwest, South and Southeast. It’s known for its robust training process and loyal employees, as well as clean facilities, plenty of on-site lighting and an array of fresh food items.


Murphy Wins on Price, QuikTrip on Fuel Quality

Market Force also evaluated how well fuel brands deliver on a spectrum of attributes. Murphy was the price-leader for the second consecutive year, placing ahead of Cumberland Farms and Wawa. Kwik Trip tied with QuikTrip for cashier service and received high marks for appearance. QuikTrip dominated many of the other categories, ranking first in key areas such as fuel quality, merchandise selection, pump speed, ease of getting in and out, appearance of fueling area and availability of cleaning supplies.

Graph 3: Fueling Station Attribute Rankings

Graph 4: Retail Environment Attribute Rankings

“We’re seeing huge spreads in many of these categories, and several are areas that could be better managed by the individual locations,” said Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer for Market Force. “For instance, having a crisp, well-maintained site and making sure the fueling area has squeegees makes a difference to attracting and keeping customers in this very competitive space. Price matters—but so does image.”


Convenience Stores Feed Demand for Fresh Food

By offering everything from fresh salads to made-to-order sandwiches, convenience stores are luring hungry motorists and giving quick-service restaurants a run for their money. Market Force found that 21% of respondents bought a fresh food item during their last visit to a convenience store, and 86% were satisfied with the quality. Kwik Trip and Wawa led in fresh food purchases, although QuikTrip’s customers were most satisfied with their food quality.

Graph 5: Fresh Food Purchases and Satisfaction Rates

Even though fresh foods are growing in popularity, most people are still buying the basics when they visit a gas station or convenience store. Of the 30% of customers who purchased an additional item, most picked up non-alcoholic drinks, snacks and coffee. Phillips 66 and Kwik Trip had the most retail purchases of the brands studied.

What else are customers taking advantage of when they visit a gas station or convenience store? During their most recent visit, 14% used the restroom, 5% put air in their tires and just 3% took advantage of the car wash.

Costco Reinstated as Fueling Favorite Among Grocers, Big-Box Retailers

In the grocery and big-box category, Costco overtook the No. 1 spot from BJ’s Wholesale Club (an honor Costco gave up in 2016 after placing first in 2015) with a sizeable lead. Sam’s Club ranked second, BJ’s and Kroger tied for third, Walmart was fourth and Safeway snagged fifth place.

Graph 6: Favorite Grocery/Big-Box Stores for Fuel

Costco Has Best Prices, But Hard to Enter/Exit

When Market Force looked at the attributes that drive customer satisfaction, Costco led in most of them, although it tied for last with Safeway for ease of getting in and out, and was dead last for cleaning supply availability. Sam’s Club and Walmart tied for ease of getting in and out, and Sam’s Club ranked second to Costco for fuel quality, price, pump speed and appearance. The grocery chains had the lowest marks for payment authorization speed, likely due to the extra time required to process loyalty cards at the pump.

Graph 7: Grocery and Big-Box Attribute Rankings

Only 16% said they made an additional retail purchase when they last filled up at a grocer or big-box store, and, of those, most purchased from BJ’s. 

Motorists Tapping Into Apps to Find Cheap Gas

Gas and convenience store mobile app usage continues to rise steadily, with 13% saying they’ve used one, up from 10% in 2016. GasBuddy, which uses crowdsourcing to find the cheapest gas prices in an area, is by far the most popular app (cited by 58%). However, retailers’ branded apps are gaining steam, with 41% of customers reporting they’ve used one. The most popular app features, in order, include the ability to compare fuel prices, locate gas stations and manage loyalty programs.

Graph 8: Gas/Convenience Apps That Consumers Have Used

Plastic is King in Gas/Convenience

Mobile payments are becoming more widely used in some sectors, but gas and convenience isn’t one of them. Less than 1% of customers used a mobile payment form for their most recent fuel or retail purchase at a gas station or convenience store. A fairly low one in 10 reported using cash, while 77% used either a credit or debit card. 


For the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent fueling experience, and their likelihood to refer the brand to others on a 1-5 scale. The results were averaged to attain a Composite Loyalty Index score. Only chains that received at least 100 votes and represented at least 2% of votes were included in the study.


The survey was conducted online in February 2017 across the United States. The pool of 11,338 respondents represented a cross-section of the four U.S. census regions. Fifty-two percent reported household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 72% were women and 27% were men. 

For more information on Market Force’s services for the petro-convenience industry, visit

About Market Force Information
Market Force Information® provides location-level measurement solutions that help businesses protect their brand reputation, delight customers and make more money. Solutions include customer experience surveys, mystery shopping and contact center data integrated on one technology and analytics platform. Founded in 2005, Market Force has a growing global presence, with offices in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France and Spain. It serves over more than 350 clients that operate multi-location businesses, including major retailers, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, financial institutions and entertainment. More information can be found at

Date: Thursday, April 13, 2017
Market Force 2017 consumer research on petro-convenience stores

11 April 2017 — While Costco tops the grocery and big-box category, people still prefer to buy their gas at conventional stations, even though their prices tend to be higher (especially when you factor in loyalty rewards), according to Market Force. "For their most recent trip to the pump, 71% of drivers visited a gas station compared to 29% who visited a grocer, warehouse club or big-box retailer," according to Market Force. "Other key influencers in choosing a fueling stop are good lighting, fuel quality and payment options."

Date: Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Consumer favorites for petro-convenience retailers

11 April 2017 — Despite the fact that price is the main driver for selecting a place to fuel, Market Force found that most motorists continue to fill up at conventional gas stations vs. warehouse clubs or store pumps, even though the latter tend to offer a lower price per gallon, particularly when combined with loyalty rewards. For their most recent trip to the pump, 71% of drivers visited a gas station compared to 29% who visited a grocer, warehouse club or big-box retailer. Other key influencers in choosing a fueling stop are good lighting, fuel quality and payment options.

Date: Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Insights Top the Data Value Chain

In a Forrester Research article authored by Jennifer Belissent, PhD, Forrester, the author defines insights services in this way:

"Insights services combine internal and external data sourcing and advanced analytics to deliver actionable business insights that clients subscribe to and apply to specific functional or verticalbusiness use cases."

                      —Insights Services Disrupt The Data And Analytics Market, February 8, 2016

She goes on to describe the data value chain, with four major components:

  • Data management: Collect and store
  • Data governance: Clean and secure
  • Data analytics: Discover and analyze
  • Insights delivery: Act and automate

The research concludes that while companies invest in data management and governance, they too often neglect the last two components—understanding what the data say and acting on it.

We have first-hand experience with this phenomenon at Market Force. Brands spend a great deal of time and money ensuring their customer experience (CX) data has high integrity, is clean and well-secured, and can be properly accessed. However, brands too often choose to minimize their investment in analytics and insights—either using internal or external resources. This is a critical mistake.

When brands choose not to invest in proper analytics and change management tools, they create four critical challenges for their organization:

  1. Customers will assume that the brand is not listening to their perspective, resulting in an erosion of trust and good faith.
  2. The people who can drive change lack the information and tools to actually execute change. Scores will begin to stagnate.
  3. Given the lack of information, operators will assume or invent actions that they should take—and they may or may not be the right ones. Scores won’t change and they may consider their efforts futile or question the integrity of the data.
  4. Executives will begin to question their investment in CX data collection—and will inevitably cut the budget. What should have been a brand imperative will experience an untimely death.

This cycle occurs far too often. To ensure that your brand can leverage the ROI of its data investment, you must invest in data scientists and other analysts who can surface meaningful insights that can be translated into real actions with tangible ROI. Do not neglect this most important part of the data value chain. Instead, make this the bright line of excellence for your program.

LEARN MORE about Market Force's analytics and insights methodologies, and then schedule a briefing. We’d be glad to walk you through methods and proof points.

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As Chief Strategy Officer, Cheryl aligns Market Force's strategic direction with our clients' strategic objectives. She oversees the North American client base, Analytics and Insights, Winnipeg Operations and Marketing. She has a Ph.D. in social psychology and broad business experience in both private and public companies.​

10 April 2017 — Costco has retaken the top spot among grocery stores and big-box retailers in an annual Market Force Information survey of Americans' favorite places to get gas. The warehouse club had fallen behind BJ's in 2016 after coming in first in 2015 by a large margin, according to Market Force. In 2017, Costco took back the No. 1 spot while Wal-Mart's Sam's Club came in second, 

Date: Monday, April 10, 2017

The Surprising Top 5 Reasons for Choosing Where We Buy Gas

In February of 2017, Market Force fielded research about the consumer experiences at gas and convenience stations. Over 11,000 responses were received. We asked a variety of questions—including what determines where they purchase fuel. The answers may surprise you:

Price  77% of consumers rated price as a key component for where to fuel. Price/gallon tends to be very competitive—within a few cents—so filling a ten gallon tank will only save a few quarters. But it still matters, and petro-convenience retailers will continue to pour money into real-time predictive algorithms to set pricing.

Good lighting  Security absolutely plays a role. We judge where to fuel based on whether a site is well lit and maintained and it’s easy to see inside the convenience store.

Fuel quality  The majors like BP, Shell, and Phillips 66 emphasize fuel quality. That matters as 48% of consumers gave it a 5 for importance.

Payment form  Consumers want a no-hassle experience at their petro convenience station. Offering different forms of payment (credit card, cash, a mobile app) can make it easy—but the credit card reader and the app technology had better work.

Easy entry and exits The choice to turn left or right, parking, and getting back out on the highway continue to matter.

In sum, consumers look at price, security, fuel quality, easy ways to pay, and ingress/egress when choosing where to purchase fuel. Brands must pay particular attention to these five items to be an attractive choice in a highly competitive market.

The graph below summarizes consumer ratings of importance for twenty attributes. Each was rated on a 5 point scale, where 1 = not at all important, 5 = very important.

If you’d like to learn more about our research and see the competitive benchmark results for over 30 brands, click here to schedule a briefing. And to see how one of our clients, Phillips 66, partners with Market Force to create great customer experience, watch the video.

Gail Funderburk serves as vertical practice lead for the grocery industry. She works with national grocery chains as well as regional providers, focusing on how to improve same store sales and capture market share in this fiercely competitive industry.


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To discuss your needs for improving performance for your multi-location brand, give us a call. We’d be happy to discuss best practices for measuring the customer experience and compliance to brand standards, using analytics to understand what matters most and the ROI for change, and technology solutions that integrate large quantities of data on one single platform. We look forward to a great discussion!

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