Building Loyalty on the Bruce Highway


Building Loyalty on the Bruce Highway

We travel the Bruce Highway from Rockhampton to Brisbane frequently, and when we find a good place to eat or get coffee, we’ll keep going back until we are disappointed.

However, if we need to take a toilet break before we get to our favourite place, or if we’ve just passed a batch of traffic and don’t want to stop and get behind them again, we’ll try somewhere else. There is a ‘fickleness’ in the travelling public that can’t be denied. It makes it more difficult, but not impossible, for a highway business to build loyalty. The shiny and new will almost always get the business, in its first few weeks at least.

We saw that this weekend as we drove through Benaraby. The number of cars that were parked at the ‘new’ servo leaving the poor old 24-hour Caltex on the other side of the highway wondering what happened to his business overnight. Actually, I don’t know that for a fact, it could possibly be the same owner on both sides of the highway, but business in the ‘old place’ will have suffered nonetheless, at least, temporarily.

How can you build loyalty from the travelling public and increase your chances of a return visit on the way back and/or on their next trip north or south without breaking the bank?

Here are 3 tips to help you:

1. Remember that your customers will always try the ‘new kid on the block’.

People are inquisitive. They want to check out new things. Most new businesses take a few weeks to get their staffing, stock levels and product range ‘right’. If they get it wrong when your customer goes there on their way ‘to’ wherever they are going, you have a chance to win them back on their return home. Don’t drop your bundle and panic. Keep your staffing levels, stock levels, product range and customer standards high during this ‘lean period’. This short-term outlay will pay for itself in multiples if your offer is genuinely superior to your competitor.

2. Maintain a high standard of presentation and cleanliness.

Your building may be older, and you may have more maintenance issues, but there is no excuse for a grubby presentation. We ‘went back’ to one of our lesser favourite spots on our way home today because our regular haunt in that particular town was closed for the public holiday. This was this businesses chance to captivate our attention and capture our business on our next trip.

The food was pretty good.  The coffee was ordinary. The staff were friendly, helpful and clean, but unkempt in their presentation. The toilets open straight out onto the car park and just have click locks on them, not slide locks. I didn’t feel confident someone wouldn’t open the door while I was sitting on the throne and expose me ‘with my pants down’ to whoever happened to be in plain view. The plastic tablecloths were overdue for replacement, and the building walls were showing signs of age.

All of these are simple, relatively low-cost fixes. New uniforms, hair nets, a thorough clean of building and equipment, perhaps a coat of paint, new tablecloths, barrel bolts or slide locks on the toilet doors.

Remember, the goal is to affordably and realistically improve your offer and increase your turnover by profitable increments, not to necessarily topple your competitor.

3. Work with the other businesses in your area; your community is your secret to success.

We stayed overnight at a motel in Childers. The motel restaurant wasn’t open, but the moteliers shared with great passion, the eating options available in Childers on a Sunday night telling us that they knew from customer feedback that they were ‘all’ great. It just depended on what you were looking for.

We walked up and down and checked them all out before deciding on our final choice. They were all reasonably priced and genuinely busy. We opted for Thai. I mentioned to the friendly guy who served us (presumably the owner) that the motel owner had recommended them.  He told me they all work together. He said other businesses come and go who think they can do it better but can’t.

The secret of success is community. Your ‘inner’ community consists of you and your staff.  Your ‘outer’ community is your customers, your service contractors and suppliers, your local business network. Work with them all to help solve their problems, and they will reciprocate by helping you with yours.

You’ll be one step ahead of the rest, and you’ll be more likely to survive the fickle-hearted lack of loyalty of highway travellers.

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