Developing a Sense of Urgency at Retail

ind_conv_4From store cleanliness to customer service, all retailers must go above and beyond the call of duty to protect their brand identity.
By Jim Callahan.

I don’t get upset too often, but I’m usually able to get there pretty quickly when it does happen. And when I do encounter a less-than-positive experience, I always look for a lesson that I can take away and learn from. Last month I had such an experience.

During a trip to a convenience store that I was trying to open for a client I was fighting through the usual red tape involved when dealing with tobacco, alcohol and various other licenses and was in danger of missing the deadlines that I had agreed to.

At any rate, after three days of phone calls to a certain vendor who, in his defense, was missing a bit of information, didn’t bring the desired results, I lost my cool. I said to him, “You have no sense of urgency.”

The following day he was in the store scurrying to finish our order and I was feeling pretty good. I thought I had really gotten through to him. Ironically, what I failed to realize was that he had a deadline to meet in submitting the order so that it could be placed on the next delivery, and that was his sense of urgency. Let’s resolve to be sensitive to each others needs and timelines and remember that others are always willing to go out of their way to meet our needs.

Building Teamwork
The lesson I learned from this experience is that we all have a sense of urgency but, we must work to develop it and be aware of when to use it. Let’s explore a few of those situations as they relate to the convenience store business:
• When you walk into a store and it doesn’t look in top shape, remember that the store gives off indelible impressions every minute of every day. Customers absolutely love to see an employee with a mop or broom or someone that is stocking shelves to ensure all the right products are where they are supposed to be. Make sure employees understand that is their sense of urgency.
• When you’re low or out of milk or bread, even if you have to go to a grocery store to get it, have the sense of urgency to get it done. Don’t let customers see your shelves empty—EVER.
• When you notice that your restrooms are not quite up to par, understand that your entire business is primed to lose business, not gain customers. No one is going to buy food at your deli if the restroom is dirty and you’ll be lucky if they come back to your store at all.
• When you see a line of customers backed up at the register, even a small line, you must recognize that those customers have somewhere else to be and they do not want to be waiting in line. They are growing angry and impatient by the minute and their anger is pointed right at your brand.  Put on a big smile, get behind that register and assist the next customer in line.
• When your store’s forecourt is sloppy or rundown, remember with a sense of urgency that this is the first impression customers receive of your brand. You must make a positive first impression.
• When an employee arrives for work wearing a wrinkled or stained shirt and unshaven, have a sense of urgency regarding your corporate standards and what is and is not acceptable.

With the economy still struggling, it is up to all of us to take the necessary steps to protect our brand image. There are so many areas where our brand can be compromised. Remember, every customer is important. Be proactive and be diligent.

Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on He can be reached at (678)485-4773 or via e-mail at



  1. Very poorly written. your personal example was such a bad intro to your points made. maybe its the 40 years of experience that clouds your vision of current processes.

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