The C-Store Is Your Stage

C-store companies that understand frontline employees are a key cornerstone to any brand’s overall success will always have an edge on the competition.

By Jim Callahan, Contributing Editor

There are few things more important to the success of a c-store company than making sure each customer leaves the store feeling better than when they arrived. The premise is not new, nor is it mine, but I will take the liberty of providing a few personal thoughts on the topic, along with adding a little bit of flair.

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When I did c-store employee training I often asked for a show of hands for those who had ever given even the briefest of thought to becoming an actor, a politician, motivational speaker, a radio or TV personality or a writer. After a little cajoling, I was usually rewarded with a majority of hands in the air.

Imagine for a minute that you are an actor, indeed the leading character in a blockbuster movie. In fact, you are the star. Now understand that the area behind the cash register and the raised floor that you are standing on is the stage. The customers entering the store or those out at the fuel island are your audience.

Those same cash registers are your applause each and every time they ring up a sale. Now consider that every customer exiting your “theater” is likened to a critic’s four-star rating (or was it a 1-, 2- or 3-star rating?) You can be the judge as long as you are honest with yourself and vow to keep working to improve your customer service skills so every ring is a 4-star experience.

Sitting in Georgia as I write this article, I can already hear a wee bit of laughter and see a few doubters. So I challenge you to give it a fair try before you dismiss this analogy. What have you got to lose? The answer of course is, “nothing,” but the upside is clear: a more fulfilling job, a sense of accomplishment, greater confidence and the admiration of your customers, managers and co-workers.

Really, there’s no downside to making yourself more valuable to your employer and more knowledgeable for the future. Those in charge learn quickly that it isn’t the technology or the product that make a company great, it’s the people.

Business leaders who adopt the attitude that anyone is replaceable, thinking they can simply hire someone with a greater skillset or someone with a better resume, are fooling themselves. That said, an employee should be aware that his or her role in the company comes with responsibilities along with the required duties. Often, the two differ significantly.

Like any actor, frontline c-store employees must be properly prepared for their role:
• Be on time. Understand the show cannot start without you.
• Come prepared and look successful. Can you imagine the star of a

Broadway show being unkempt and unshaven, showing up in wrinkled clothes with their hair not brushed? How many great employees forget their name badge? You need to let your fans know your name.

• Know what the company plan is and follow it. Great employees are also fantastic team members. While you can be a star actor, you are still part of a cast that must work together to put on a great show for your customers. Educate yourself on suggestive selling and help others on your team be knowledgeable on your store offering. And remember that most companies fund bonuses and raises based on sales, so when your co-workers do well, everyone does well.

• Greet every single customer with a great smile and outstanding attitude. Understand that you have an opportunity to change or improve a customer’s day every time they walk through the door.

• Have your own sales goals. Try choosing items to sell that fit the occasion, such as placing umbrellas close to the register when it’s raining or sunscreen on weekends in the summer.

Actors have to be dedicated and constantly find ways to improve and reinvent themselves, and they must be able to adapt to varying situations. Don’t be afraid to fail and always maintain a burning hunger for a better life and a taste of success. My wish for all of you is that you persevere and find that success.