Why Grades Matter for C-Store Performance

Many innovative tools are using simple grades to turn complex data into understanding, motivation and action. Many argue as to the validity of a single score showing anything meaningful, but many others believe it is one of the most effective ways to use data to help improve performance.

I have seen these basic grades used in all sort of industries with all sorts of data. I find the more complex the data involved the more valuable a simple grade is when it comes to sharing the data.

I think there are a few basic reasons why it makes sense to set grades
1. A’s are good and F’s are bad. No one misunderstands grades. Adding color helps interpretation even more – green is good and red is bad. Visually, troubled areas become very hard to miss and avoid.
2. A desire to understand means that communication will occur. This allows an explanation of what matters. How the grade is determined helps to show what matters.
3. Unless you have staff that just doesn’t care at all, most will respond to any grade with an interest to learn more about how it is set. Just sit in any class and listen to the students.

  • Will this be on the test?
  • How much does this test count
  • How can I overcome a bad test?

They want to know what matters to the teacher, how the scores are valued and what to do if things go wrong. Pretty good stuff for any manager to have his team think about and work on.

4. A lack of change makes it easy to start a dialog with the ‘student’. Talking about the grade allows anyone to have an objective dialog about the situation. The awareness helps to find problems and focus the team on what matters.

Using Grades to communicate C-Store Performance

Give it a try. You must have a set of numbers that you use. Have a discussion about what set of numbers indicates good performance and why. Watch the numbers for a few days, share the results with your staff and then see what happens.

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4 Ways to Make Your C-Store Database Sell More Snickers

Every C-Store owner challenges us data geeks to do something useful, like selling more Snickers. They often tease that data cannot sell anything or help with the real work of providing convenience. We know they are right in many ways. Of course it is the C-Store staff that does the real work to make service great and keep customers visiting. But knowing you are not selling enough Snickers bars and quickly seeing why is something data can do to help. Even better, corrective actions can be recommended based your operating procedures and company experience base when these items are identified and brought forward as urgent matters to address. The result can be better actions based on feedback found within your data.

In makes sense intuitively, all C-Store Managers have key performance indicators that they watch, using their database makes it easier to identify, communicate and even improve results. Many operators, however, do want to keep a steady watch on the numbers and know that tracking accurately does make a difference to the way staff work and indeed how many snicker bars are sold.

But still it has to be more than just objective numbers or the monthly financial statements. Most C-Store operators have a key set of criteria:
It must be timely. If the data comes too late, it is much harder to think about the cause and come up with an action. If a problem is revenue related it increases the loss

It must be simple to understand. Scorecards for operations people must be simple and quik or they will not use them. Operations people are too busy working with customers where they cannot take a lot of time each day to
analyze and process.

It must be a comparison to something important
a. Same day last week
b. Same week last year
c. Same holiday
d. Similar weather

Numbers without context are not very helpful. If you have comparison numbers you can tell quickly which direction things are heading. Of course, there are other circumstances but comparing the same store numbers to similar
situations makes things more useful. No one would compare an 18 bay interstate store to a 2 bay rural store and expect to see similar numbers.

It must be something that can be controlled. Almost every C-Store operator expects the store manager to do a lot more with inside sales than gas. Gas sales are much harder to control. The more control the person feels they can have, the more likely they will be motivated by business intelligence. Balancing the view and the measurements between financial, operational, customer and training can give a store manager a fair approach and make it clear that they can, if not control, exert great influence over their results.

So just like any good team, it takes participation to get optimal results. Business Intelligence alone will not make a great store, but teamed with the right staff and leadership it can drive your performance.

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3 Ways Business Intelligence Tools Can Eliminate C-Store Analysis Impediments

If you read articles in the C-Store Industry journals or magazines it is hard to find an issue without some sort of mention on the value of analyzing your data and using it to drive your business.  A lot C-store operators feel like they have so much data it feels like a Big Data mountain to climb in order to just get started. Worse, there is a back office system and a host of Point Of Sale data sets that must be navigated before they can even start looking for the type of data they want to analyze. Without a dedicated resource, it can just be too overwhelming to find a set of data in order to get started. Because of the time involved, the general trend is to just not do it.  In the place of analytics, instinct and experience are used for problem identification and resolution. This works well if you know the problems, and have a process to address them all. However, with the increase in the size of operations, the number of problems increase and the ability to monitor solutions becomes more time consuming. In short, the first step in analysis paralysis creation is just the fact that many do not know how to begin.  Preventing a C-Store company from going into this analysis paralysis is probably the most obvious value attributed to Business Intelligence software. It is also the one thing that can let them know they are running  at optimal efficiency.  There are three key areas where they hold the most value. There are three key areas:

  1. Seeing a problem quickly is a big reason all by itself

The analysis and correlation of data is done for you saving your time for more productive activities.  As an example, let’s look at a daily report where sales are lower than you expected.  Your first instinct may be to look at the Customer Count in that store for a day.  When you do, you find that the count was actually higher than normal, which leaves you scratching your head.  So, you go to another report such as inventory levels,  or perhaps voids and returns, and maybe even time sheets to see who was on staff at the time.   You hop from report to report to see where things went wrong.  After an hour or so, you may find that the reason was because the average transaction amount, or basket size, was lower than normal.  So what you ultimately discover after an hour has passed,  is that you need to find ways to increase the average transaction amount to realize the value from the increased customer count at that store.  When you multiply that effort and time by the amount of stores you are managing, you can begin to see where instinct and experience would be considered, good enough. This describes one of the core values of the Business Intelligence tool.  It saves time.

  1. Finding the subtle Issues that are happening over time  

Some problems are quick an easy to spot, such as no sales spiked due to a bad cashier. No trending is needed.  You can just look at the numbers. Other problems are much more subtle and need more data points to see. For example the daily cycle of many stores means that a daily comparison over time shows that there may be a nice 1% increase in certain sales over the last few weeks. Conversely, you may see that a new store is not growing fast enough week to week to meet your plans for the year rate of sales.

By analyzing the many aspects that are involved in a C-Store, Business Intelligence tools can tell you how to optimize your revenue. Most have trending capabilities where you can look at results over time.  This will tell you when to order, what staff levels are needed when and when you may want to increase your marketing through out the year.  You can reserve money when you can and only spend it when you need to.  Yes, this by far is the most time consuming piece of analysis because you are looking at a large variety of data over time.  There are many reports that have to be pulled together and plotted to show what is happening over a time line.  Instinct may tell you to keep Kerosene levels low and Propane high in the Summer, but it may not tell you to order less snack food or health and beauty products at that time.  Trending shows you the patterns of performance. They show you when they peak and when they fall throughout a given year.  Even having a person dedicated to this type of analysis may not gather it all.  This leads us to the third reason why BI tools are needed in a C-Store company

  1. Nothing Gets Missed or Forgotten 

One of the simple benefits of a BI program is just making sure a regular review of objective data is taking place. Some simple benefits occur when the analytics require timely input of daily results. Just having stores post regularly and review the key measurements each day provides a cadence of accountability that sets the tone for even better results as the analytics show areas that need attention.

Business Intelligence is a matter of monitoring all aspects of one’s business and showing different views of it, in smaller doses, so they can be comprehended.  Through a few clicks, one can find the proverbial needle in the haystack.  Good ones will have alerts and alarms to notify you when something is in decline that you may or may not watch on a daily basis.  It lets you know as soon as the decline begins to offset problems early on.  These tools watch numerous aspects that impact your business.  They allow you to focus on the larger drivers of your revenue while only letting you know about the smaller ones  when they need attention.  By watching these smaller details, many of the larger ones can be prevented.

C-Store companies are very fortunate in that they capture all of the data they would ever need in order to drive their business upward.  it is vast, updated daily and covers all aspects of their business.  With a good BI tool, decisions can be made on factual information, trending will help them know where money can be saved and costly issues can be stopped as they start. Business Intelligence tools are what make the use of  their data practical and possible.



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