The convenience store industry will always be a people business. For many years that meant putting the customer first — rightfully so, it seemed, since they were the people spending the money.
But gradually, over the past decade, the top-quartile convenience store chains realized the value they had in their people and that began a fundamental shift to a strict employee-first focus. This transition in priorities has been extremely effective in retaining top employees, creating a winning corporate culture and transforming leading c-store chains into an employer of choice. When employees feel valued, they’ll create a better experience for your customers and, in turn, drive business up along with your company’s reputation.
This process has never been more true or more important than now, as businesses across the country deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Dedicated employees are on the front lines every day serving customers, providing a memorable shopping experience and just being a friendly face in difficult times.
We should all be proud of the work frontline employees are doing in these challenging times. But as business owners, you need to be more than proud. You need to be proactive and take the necessary steps to recognize your employees’ hard work and put programs in place to ensure these dedicated team members are satisfied and not ready to jump at the next opportunity that comes along. Your people are helping you navigate a rocky road. Reward them for their contributions to your brand.
A joint study by the Disney Institute and McKinsey & Co. found that creating a memorable customer experience was “not magic, but method.” The study revealed that when you take an active role in making your employees feel needed, they become more engaged with your organization and more committed to your service goals. It recommended companies adopt four habits to accomplish this.
Hire for attitude. If you want friendly service, hire friendly people. Think about companies like Southwest Airlines, Disney or any company known for its culture. They aren’t trying to change people to fit what they are doing. They are hiring individuals whose attitudes fit what they do, and then training them on the necessary job skills. The end result is quite noticeable, especially during a pandemic.
Listen to employees. If you want your employees to take care of your customers, start by taking care of your employees. But go a step further and get personally involved in their needs. Then take action. Communicate what you are doing to take care of them and involve the employees themselves in a retention strategy.
Give people purpose, not rules. Frontline employees participating in infinitely varied customer interactions won’t always find the answers in manuals. The best companies supply team members with a common purpose. When people are trusted to do their job and given clear expectations rather than an instruction manual, they feel more valued and empowered.
Tap into the creativity of your staff. Giving frontline employees responsibility creates a sense of ownership that inspires them to do everything they can to improve the customer experience.
I was speaking with a corporate human resources (HR) manager recently who was clearly frustrated with high turnover and blamed it on the younger generation’s work ethic. This seemed to me the easy way out. If staffing is your problem, take the time to look in the mirror and identify the root cause of your frustration. It will be the first step down the path to better days.
HR Consultant Mel Kleiman, founder of Humetrics, tells me all the time, “The reason companies don’t have great employees is because they are not willing to put in the time and effort to get them and then keep them.”
Don’t be afraid to do the hard work. Give your hiring practices, retention strategy and corporate culture an honest assessment so when we are faced with the next great challenge, you’ll know you have the right people in place to get you through it with minimal losses.
For any questions about this issue or suggestions for future issues, please contact me at [email protected].