Convenience store operators must work on improving their training programs so that they can improve sales, customer satisfaction and employee retention.
By Jim Callahan.
The strained economy has been a little bit of a double-edged sword for the convenience store industry. While customers may be a little tighter with their spending, I’ve found that employee loyalty and stability has swelled to levels we haven’t seen in years.
We benefit greatly by this stability as customers love seeing the same friendly faces that know and address them by name and are able to say, “Your usual five $2 Jumbo Bucks lottery tickets? What else can I get you today?”
We are also saving great amounts of money by eliminating the cost of training new employees. This includes employees having to learn our culture, customers and prices. It’s a very difficult and costly task. I feel strongly that both management and employees need to use this time as an opportunity to improve performance and perfect their retail execution.
During my visits to other stores I don’t see enough effort being put into additional training for those seemingly loyal, but less-engaged employees. Those employees sitting on the sidelines might just decide to stay the course with your company even after the economy turns the corner and job opportunities become more plentiful. Investing in advanced training is going to bring an extra degree of satisfaction, pride and happiness to the kind of employee that we would like to keep long term—one that brings an improved level of productiveness.
Investing in your employees is hardly a innovative concept. The top quartile chains have excellent training and retention plans and constantly reinvest in their people. For employees, this kind of investment is a source of great pride.
Employees also need to understand that c-stores are a business and that profit is not a dirty word. When I was a kid, I thought that every business owner was rich. Owning a business, for me, proved to be a bit of a rude awakening. Employees need to understand that management can’t give out raises from an empty bank account and that money does not magically funnel into bank accounts every day.
Consider that if one employee is just 15 minutes late every shift—even if he or she is making minimum wage— after employer wage taxes are added it amounts to almost $25,000 a year lost by the business. One dishonest employee stealing a single king size candy bar and a 20-ounce drink once a day takes another $17,500 profit out of that bank account. When you add in more employees, the losses are staggering and threaten the viability of the entire business.
Also, as you train your employees, it is important to let them know that it’s OK to express their individualism, but know when they are on the clock. They are expected to appear at work, clean and neat, with name badge on—free of jewelry-adorning piercings. Remember a business cannot afford to offend even the pickiest of customers and that is why we ask that piercings be covered. It’s not personal—it’s business.
For all of the misconceptions about the convenience store industry, our employees must buy into the fact that the life lessons they learn while working in this great industry will remain with them throughout their lives. The training and education they receive, not to mention the innate abilities they will learn to read customers and anticipate their needs, will enrich all aspects of their lives. Furthermore, these are skills most people want; they just haven’t realized it yet.
Remember, life is like a video game. You do not get to go to the next level until you’ve mastered the level that you’re currently at.
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 [email protected].