Title: Rothmans, Benson and Hedges Business Development Representative of the Year Awards: highlighting the importance of customer service.

Sub-title: Winners credit success to strong client relationships.

 

Like many convenience store owners, Carl Caron, proprietor of Marché St-Louis in Trois Rivières Quebec, spends most of his time focusing on customers. He greets everyone with a smile, makes sure that cash register lineups move quickly, and that clients that seek help get quick service.

 

“We try to give clients what they are looking for. Many of the people that walk in, want to buy what they need - and then to get out, as quickly as possible,” says Caron with a laugh. “Others like to stop a while to browse and chat.”

 

But Caron doesn’t just provide good customer service, sometimes, he is also the beneficiary. Every two weeks or so, when Yves Dupré, his Rothmans, Benson and Hedges representative, comes to visit, Caron is the one that gets taken care of. “Yves is a great guy and a true sales professional,” says Caron. “He is very sociable and is always interested in chatting even about non-business stuff. But when it comes down to work, he is there too.”

 

Secrets of a good customer service man

Caron isn’t the only one who thinks so highly of Dupré. In fact the Quebec rep’s talents and results are so strong that he recently won an award as Business Development Representative of the Year for the entire province. “We have been lucky in our territory,” says Dupré. “The war on contraband tobacco has been helping to increase demand here. We have also been building market share, which has helped.”

 

Dupré credits much of his success to Rothmans, Benson and Hedges itself, due to the support and tools that the organization provides to its representatives to help service clients. These range from inventory sheets, to price display materials, volume discounts, contests and of course the RBH Connect loyalty program and Web-site. “There is a lot of competition in our industry,” says Dupré. “So we try to stand out in small ways, such as being honest with customers, listening to their needs, helping out with special requests, keeping them informed about our products and services and by giving advice when they need it.”

 

Life on the road: it’s all about the people

Listening to Rothmans, Benson and Hedges representative Steve Lundrigan talk about his day, makes one wonder how he handles it all. Lundirgan, who won the Business Development Representative of the Year Award for Atlantic Canada, is based in Gander Newfoundland and covers the province’s center. His territory extends several hours out in each direction, so he spends lots of time both in his car and in motels on overnight trips. “I love it,” says Lundrigan with a smile. “I could never go back being behind a desk. I love the open road and I love the people I meet and work with every day.”

 

Lundrigan attributes his success to the convenience store operators that he works with. “As tobacco products marketers, we are not allowed to communicate directly with our clientele, so we rely on them to do it for us,” explains Lundrigan. “As a result, I try to treat everyone I meet with respect – not just the store owners, but clerks too. You never know, one day they could end up owning the store.”

 

Lundrigan is also a big fan of the RBH Connect loyalty program and Web-site, which many of his customers have bought into in a big way. “All of our competitors offer volume rebate programs, but none has anything like RBH Connect,” says Lundirgan. “Convenience store operators really appreciate being able to redeem their points for valuable merchandise like say a fishing rod or something like that. For us it provides a good way of thanking them for the efforts they put in.”

 

Going the extra mile: Ontario rep Ryan Scott

One common thread running through all of the Rothmans, Benson and Hedges Representative of the Year award winners is their willingness to go the extra mile for the customer. Ryan Scott, who won the prize for the Ontario region is a perfect example.

 

“Convenience store owners may run their own businesses, but when it comes to marketing tobacco products, I try to treat each client as though they were my partners,” says Scott. “If they succeed in generating sales, then I succeed too. And I try to recognize that fact in everything I do for them.”

 

One of Scott’s biggest fans is Kumar Gurdita, who operates Queen’s Quay Convenience and several other stores in the central Toronto area. “He is a great guy and very helpful all the time” says Gurdita about Ryan. “I have been in the business for 20 years, and no else treats me as well. He visits us regularly, helps us with new strategies when there are price changes, and once he even took me out to lunch to talk a bit about business.”

 

According to Gurdita, what really impressed him about Scott was the extra effort he makes on every sales call. “We needed new shelves for our new store and he put them into his car and drove them right over,” said Grudita. “And even though he was not able to supply us the flops to cover up the cigarettes, he was able to connect us with a supplier that could. I am also trying hard to expand and grow my business and he has given me a lot of advice and has provided a great sounding board for my ideas.”

 

A great company to work for

That said, according to Dupré, one crucial and often overlooked customer satisfaction element that Rothmans, Benson and Hedges supplies its Business Development Representatives is a good working environment. “We have a great team here, good working conditions and good benefits,” says Dupré. “That’s important because it reflects itself in the image that we project to clients. They see that we are optimistic about what we do and they buy in to that.”

 

Peter Diekmeyer (peter@peterdiekmeyer.com) is CStore Life’s Quebec correspondent.

 

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