Put yourself in the shoes of the person who is looking for an answer! That’s just what Brandy Clark of Clark’s Pump-N-Shop did recently.
You and members of your field team are on the road and are wondering how your stores are doing. You are having a discussion with a store manager and want to discuss store performance while walking the sales floor. Alan Meyer, fuel manager at Meyer Oil Co., takes it out to the forecourt. And then there’s the forever question – “what if?”
Sure, there’s been a lot of talk about big data and business intelligence (BI) tools, but the bottom line in living the question you have set out to answer is that the key lies in the enormity of big data and the vast array of BI tools at your disposal.
Where’s the Data?
“Point of Sale (POS) systems today provide a lot of data,” said Raymond Lugo, special project manager, Service Station Computer Systems Inc. (SSCS). He also said that the data in their Computerized Daily Book or imported from the POS to their Transactional Analysis tool are sources of data.
Clark, who “has more data” than she and the Pump-N-Shop team know what to do with, brought her experience from CMI Solutions Inc. and knows that having POS Journal data available to use with CMI’s C-Store Analytics tool can make a difference.
For Meyer, his data view starts at the dispenser and comes alive in NCR’s Pulse Forecourt Manager, a mobile solution.
Others in the industry have data in Human Resource, Fuel Pricing and other systems, import data from third parties such as OPIS and weather service bureaus and use data provided by merchandise partners.
Putting Data to Use!
On a recent store visit, Clark told me she and the store manager were discussing a foodservice challenge the store employees had. There was a freezer holding inventory that was taking up space. The freezer was relied on, much like a warehouse—causing increased inventories. Product would be removed too soon for use and that led to spoilage. As she listened, the wheels were turning and Clark knew she could turn to data to solve this real problem. She took a look at how much was being sold and how much would be needed and then, with the manager, built orders based on delivery days. Not only did this help reduce inventory but having been recently in the shoes of another one of the Pump-N-Shop managers, Clark knew where the freezer was going to be transferred. Having success here has Clark working on a similar project to reduce fountain and coffee cups.
The customer experiences on the forecourt at Meyer’s Mach 1 Stores is of most importance to Meyer and his team. They’ve responded to feedback and used their own visits to fill up their tanks to ensure that dispensers are performing optimally. Using NCR’s Pulse Forecourt Manager, Meyer has implemented a plan, that he recently walked attendees at NCR’s Synergy conference through that his team follows:
- Operations Management – Review three times a day to make sure there are no pump, printer or carwash issues
- Maintenance – Review card read errors and flow rates
- Store Manager – Review card read error rates daily and clean any dispensers with more than five errors
And the good news is there are results:
- Flow Rates – with the minimum flow rate set to eight gallons per minute, before using Pulse 80% of dispensers met this minimum before, now they are at 100%
- Card Readers – achieved a 75% decrease in card reader errors
- Trouble shooting problems have become easier with immediate access to the information.
The SSCS Fuel Manager module, using a what-if feature, “calculates current and projected fuel values,” said Lugo. He sees many retailers facing the volatility of fuel pricing head on by using “this to help determine a scenario if they lower the price per gallon, how much more volume will they have to sell in order to make the same amount of profit or a break even.”
At Pump-N-Shop store managers have been trained to work with key business intelligence reports. Providing your managers with tools where they can take actionable steps to improve things rather than just looking at a report is a great way of engaging those in the know firsthand.
Whose Shoes Are You In?
The value of all the data you have will produce the best results when you are listening. Although the data will tell you a lot, it’s not verbalizing what those on the front line in your stores and with your customers can tell you. Pay attention to what they’re saying, then think about the data you have, and ask –
- what data points do I need to solve or improve the situation,
- where is the data located,
- what tool do I have readily available,
- who will I work with to take action on the findings,
- how can I enhance reporting
- and what is the data showing after changes have been made?
Just as shoes come in all sizes, opportunities to solve and the data and the tools available to you do as well. Don’t let that stop you, start with something manageable and learn about the data, use a tool that one of your existing systems provides, and discover that the results will make the person standing in those shoes each day more comfy!
Ed Collupy, executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group can be reached at [email protected]. He recently joined W. Capra after 18 years at The Pantry Inc. prior to its merger with Alimentation Couche-Tard. At The Pantry, Collupy served as vice president of the IT leadership team and most recently directed and supported all of The Pantry retail systems for store operations, merchandising and the fuel teams.