Lessons in Retail | Announced Store Visits.
Let’s start this blog and get straight to the chase about Retail Store Visits from your Manager with a simple; “Why Bother”?
Well, first off Store Visits are necessary for balances and checks to be in place. Store visits also help to ensure:
- That the Employee and Customer experience are nearly identical from location to location. Merchandising; Marketing, Facilities and so forth.
- Best practices are shared and demonstrated accordingly.
- Employees are able to share their thoughts, feeling, and ideas that they may not have expressed to their Manager due to a culture of not caring.
- The Corporate Vision, Mission, and Culture are alive, well and breathing just by walking the floor.
- The Store Manager is actually working when scheduled. Believe it or not but this actually has to be verified.
….but doing an announced | scheduled visit allows a blanket of fog to roll in and cover up many opportunities and doesn’t allow the reality of the Store to be shown in its full grandeur and natural state of possible disarray.
Also, due to the panic and pressure that comes into place because of a scheduled visit; the Store Manager (and all other partners involved such as District, Regional wanting to keep their jobs) tend to or are instructed to:
- Add additional labour hours to clean and remerchandise the store so that the impression is that everything is in control.
- Where are these additional hours coming from? Well, your guess is as good as mine, but I know by the end of the month hours will need to be cut back to cover the hours used.
- Cut Back Hours = Disengaged Employees = Disengaged Employees = Poor Customer Service = Poor Customer Service = Less Sales = Less Sales = Less Hours. No one wins.
- The store Employees and Managers become stressed knowing they need to implement Merchandising Plan that they haven’t completed in months, in the next 24 hours.
- Customer Service for the next 24 hours goes away due to everyone focusing on “putting lipstick on a pig”.
- The actual state of the store at the moment of the visit is not the reality.
The Madness, Deceit, Lies need to stop. The reality of the situation needs to be measured in the moment and therefore on most occasions Store Visits need to be done through a Customers eyes; meaning: Non scheduled.
Non-scheduled visits are shied from by most, simply because they will bring more work to the table for all involved. A non-scheduled visit will usually be longer than expected, open a can of worms and may need to include other partners such as Human Resources.
IT WILL BE AN EYE OPENER but once dealt with will help to reset expectations, deal with opportunities in Real Time, and allows you to see the Leader of the store in action in their “Natural” habitat.
Just a few reminders for ANY Store Visit:
- Be at the Store before the Store opens.
- Sit in your car to observe the actions of the Team before the store opens, this can tell you a story.
- Greet every Employee you meet and NEVER assume they know who you are.
- Are you aware of any Celebrations you need to partake in? Congratulate someone?
- Doughnuts and Coffee will be your best friends. Bring enough for everyone.
- You are a GUEST in their house and this needs to be respected by always showing respect for EVERYONE.
- Ask the Store Manager or the Manager on Duty if they have time for you today. If they do, fantastic, if they don’t, let them know the purpose of your visit and that they should continue their planned day as normal.
- If something needs to be said beyond a normal conversation, write it down, and speak to it behind closed doors and NEVER in front of the Team.
- Strike up conversations with all Employees; it doesn’t always have to be about work. Remember that there is information between the lines. Listen attentively and take notes.
- Leave your phone in our pocket. Leave your phone in your pocket. Leave your phone in your pocket.
- Take time for Lunch. Invite the Manager on Duty to join you.
- Continue taking notes during the day.
- An hour minutes before you plan to leave. Compose a summary of the visit and review it with the Manager on Duty (or Store Manager) and thank them for their time. Don’t forget to set the expectation of the follow-up required.
- Thank every Team Member on your way out.
This is not an exhaustive list and everyone will have their own style.
Just remember that you will obtain more insight and snapshot of the reality of the situation through a non-scheduled visit. This is a normal part of human behavior.
The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” —Max DePree
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