I read recently that with the improvement in the economy, employee turnover in the convenience store business is back on the rise. This follows a couple of years of relative calm benefiting both our stores and the customers we serve. Having the same employees in stores every day allows us to create a great rapport with customers and results in increased brand loyalty.
With this in mind, now might just be the most opportune time to review where you stand in regard to employees and your training programs. I am a firm believer that it’s always the right time to make changes that improve employee relations. We all must understand that loyal, dependable and caring frontline personnel are the face of our business and the key link between us and our customers.
We also must understand, however, that not all cashiers fit that mold, so if an employee is reluctant to embrace the customer service challenge, then it might be time to upgrade your sales team.
When evaluating your customer service team, take time to consider the following:
• Attitude. To me, a positive attitude is the most important attribute for employees because a good work ethic is typically the sign of an employee that knows how to get things done the right way and is even an indicator of a potential company leader.
• Attendance/On-Time Performance. Many of today’s workers have gotten in the bad habit of coming in late and not respecting work schedules. In some stores it has reached epidemic proportions. We need look no further than the mirror to understand how things got this way. Breaking this cycle can be painful, but letting on-time performance become a joke is a huge source of dissatisfaction for the good employees who have to stay past quitting time to cover for those who arrive late. Don’t be reluctant to use write-ups, suspensions, bonus reductions or even termination to solve the problem.
• Personal Appearance. Chick-fil-A, a wonderful quick-service restaurant based in Georgia, does a great job of attracting well-groomed team members. The company places personal appearance on par with the food it serves, so it should be no surprise that this regional chain just passed KFC as the No. 9 QSR in the U.S. with less than half the number of stores. Make appearance a key factor in your stores. Customers will appreciate it, and while your team members may not be quick to understand your rules and regulations, they will benefit from it their entire work life.
• Evaluate Work Habits. You may think you know what goes on at your stores when you’re not there, but thinking is never as good as actually knowing. Don’t be afraid to track your employees social media pages. Are they updating their Facebook pages while they are at work saying they are “bored”? Are they tweeting out what they want to do after work? If so, they have slacker tendencies and they are they pilfering your time. You must at least scan your security tapes daily especially for the shifts and days that you are not there. Random spot checks are also effective. Remember, employees don’t do what you expect, they do what you inspect.
• Identify Keepers. Give a fair appraisal to all of your employees by evaluating their performance in key areas, such as service, cleanliness, leadership, etc. Evaluate the good and the bad habits and fully understand which team members are definite keepers, which ones need to be replaced and which might be possible redeemers. Don’t hesitate to part with an employee that needs to be replaced. Keeping him behind the counter will do more harm than good for your brand. Being absolutely frank with the potential redeemers can also prove to be a personally rewarding experience.
Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CSDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.