Happy Employees = Happy Customers

Dennis Folden, Industry veteran

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To succeed in the convenience store industry, it is crucial to understand how customers connect with the business. Mystery-shop companies such as Service Intelligence provide a snapshot of several chains’ performance in many critical metrics. These experts evaluate c-stores from the eyes of the customer, providing a method to measure cleanliness, merchandising and customer service. The shops also put a face on your best customer-service performers.

Yet it’s important to dig even deeper into the correlation between mystery-shop ratings and the effect of employee turnover on these metrics. In his book “Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Business Fable,” Patrick Lencioni listed anonymity, irrelevance and immeasurement as why people leave their jobs.

People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known; hence a feeling of anonymity. No one wants to go into a job every day and be viewed as a number. People must be acknowledged for their strengths, provided support for their areas of development, and truly known and cared about by their manager on both personal and professional levels.

The second employee demotivator is irrelevance. Everyone needs to know that their jobs matter. Thanking people for their contributions and the effect they have is a great way to show people they make a difference not only in the lives of customers but also in the life of the manager.

The third sign behind why people leave their job is immeasurement. Employees need to be able to benchmark their progress and level of contribution. It’s not enough for a manager or supervisor to say, “Nice job.” Individuals want credible outside measurement. The number of positive customer interactions, feedback from co-workers or simply the number of people smiling when they leave the store are ways people can measure their progress immediately. Delayed feedback or long-term measurements without timely updates can demotivate people.

A frequent and regular mystery-shop program can close some of the gaps within customer service and help employees feel more valued. With that in mind, make a conscious decision to start your stores on a path to success with valid metrics and an effective team.

Great Expectations

Extraordinary customer service is a c-store’s opportunity to outperform competition from other channels of trade. The execution of the experience is critical for building relationships with customers. If employees fail to establish a positive rapport with customers, then a store is competing only on offer. Think about it: It’s nearly impossible to build a customer relationship at a QSR drive-thru window.

So how does a chain’s management team establish excellent customer service? The answer is simple but hard to execute: Find the best people, train them for success and regularly recognize their efforts.

A chain should have “all-stars” in customer service, and then try to replicate that standard of excellence throughout the entire organization. Also, make sure your managers are asking each applicant whether he or she likes the service industry. A person has to be passionate to serve others. Focus on the importance that is placed on providing quality customer service and outstanding interactions with each customer.

Employees who were mystery shopped and did a great job should be recognized and rewarded. For those individuals who did not meet expectations, employ coaching and assessment. Both of these actions send a message to all employees about the high standards placed on meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

By participating in regular mystery shops, an organization can identify and recognize individual employees and store teams that are the best at providing service. Its visibility shows that these individuals are no longer “just” a cashier or stock clerk, but an important team member who is no longer anonymous. Equally important, the mystery shop provides a way to measure ongoing performance. In fact, this should begin at the individual level and move to store manager, supervisor and the CEO. This reinforces how everyone is part of the creation of an exceptional shopping experience.

Mystery shopping should be a standard business strategy and communicated as such to prospective and existing employees. It is the core foundation for achieving short- and long-term results. 

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