October 26, 2022
With the big investments made into c-store technology, it is important to ask: Does your operations system help your c-store manager support the customer experience? Too often, the store manager is given more responsibility without adequate system support for the daily operations. Store managers face challenging responsibilities and unprecedented staffing shortages. C-Store operations support systems ease the burden placed on store managers by providing specific insights that impact the daily work in the store. This focus on the store activities completes the full range of automation that can be missing from even the best organizations.
Your back office and other technology provide important help to your support staff, vendors, and customers. Your operations systems, therefore, must provide critical insights to make it easier for store managers to direct staff in the stores. Giving managers the ability to see their overall progress and a list of the risky store activities provides attention to the right place. The ability to see exactly which parts of the store are improving or what areas are declining defines management priorities. Clear, straight-forward insights make it easy to address issues before they get out of hand. Even better, it provides specific results to give staff meaningful recognition. That is, the system provides matter-of-fact updates that tell it like it is. Keep it simple for the store manager so they stay laser-focused on the customers and the staff – the key operations for every c-store.
Evaluating System Maturity
C-store systems evolve. Evaluating your current system maturity helps to prioritize and organize the work needed to improve your c-store management system. The article ‘Four Levels of C-Store Maturity’, compares service levels to assess where systems improvements can be made:
|Focus Areas||Less Mature||More Mature|
|Customer Growth||Location||Promotions and Loyalty. Systems focus on customer attraction and specials.|
|Customer Retention||Gas price||Service and Attraction. System focus on customer personalization|
|Competitive Differentiation||Price-based||Value and convenience. System focus on customer time and appreciation.|
|Management||Hands off||Accountability to goals. System focused on operational support for staffing, loss, compliance and customer service.|
|Decision Criteria||Cost focus||Return-driven investments. System focused on return on investment, inventory turns, retail analytics, industry comparisons.|
As the system matures, there is the ability to focus more effort and resources to the high value areas of customer growth, staff retention, competitive advantage and management development. Leadership that has the time and skill to deliver the mission and vision will build strong teams. With consistent leadership and teamwork, the customer experience thrives allowing the customer perception to see the brand consistently as they shop. In short, the system maturity may best be determined by how well you answer the question: Does your operations system help your c-store manager support the customer experience?
New Operations Systems for C-Stores Are Available
There are new capabilities available. Previously, systems focused on financial controls, supplier management and customer experience. All of which are essential to effectiveness and profitability. Recently, operational support systems are used to deliver results directly to the store managers. Have accurate information means faster action, better results, and less stress. With so many technologies and challenges, understanding the priorities can seem impossible. Store managers are get-it-done people. Just give them the facts and highlight the priorities – both the good and the bad. It is important to tell it like it is. In summary, make it easy for store managers to know how to appreciate the good work, develop their staffs’ skills, and coach those that are underperforming.
Store Operations Focus
It is not enough to address the controls for money, scheduling, HR, and inventory. Store managers are also responsible for the customer experience in their store. Mangers need both time and focus to ensure the staff fulfill their duties. The team requires coaching, appreciating, and oversight. Knowing what needs to be addressed and having time to address it, is the primary reason to have a c-store operations support system.
Store-specific analysis allow managers to know where they stand. They know who is performing well and who needs attention. It makes store work easier and provides more time for management. Simplifying store management drives results:
- Bigger Baskets
- Fewer Fines
- Higher Profits
- Less Shrink
- Better Retention
- Happier Managers & Staff
- More Customers
Live the Brand & Drive the Experience
With a strong system in place, managers can shift to developing their teams ability to provide the best customer experience. It is hard to make a customer feel special, if the store is dirty, the shelves are not stocked, the staff are not pleasant and the store is understaffed. The basics must be done well or it is impossible to have a high performing store.
The goal of a great system is to automate and minimize the labor for mundane or less important work, so the skilled staff can focus on the most important work – the customer experience. “As the management experts at Bain and Company point out – a 5% boost in customer retention increases overall profits by 25%.” according to Nick Triantafellou the Director of Marketing & Merchandising at Weigel’. Making the customer’s experience wonderful drives loyalty and in turn will increase sales and profits. Nick explains “Customer experience is the core concept address to maximize customer c-store relationships. The purpose of the company defines how to deliver services to every customer that comes into our convenience store. It is the most important marketing goal there is.”
C-store service can be daunting just because of the difficulty in hiring and retention. Even worse, c-store service has expanded outside of the store with digital interactions and the amount of service at the store is growing quickly (e.g. food, EV, curb-side, delivery). There are more things to manage and a need to produce more with each labor hour. C-store operations support systems must make it easier for the store manager to have a clear picture of the entirety of their store management responsibilities. They must have time and focus to meet the meet their daily work demands while also keeping the staff and customers fulfilled.
Learn More About Store Operations Focus
Basics of Operations Management (1 minute video)