Better Business | NACS – Magazine – Past Issues – 2009 – November 2009
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Advancing Convenience & Fuel Retailing

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Better Business

Greg Smith helps businesses reduce turnover, increase sales, hire better people and deliver better customer service. He’s got some advice for you, too.

With employee turnover in convenience stores averaging 112 percent, employee retention can be a struggle. How do you do it right?
The first step is hiring the right people. Most employers have an ineffective hiring process. Employee turnover is expensive and rehiring people is time consuming. On the average, it costs about $3,000 to replace, rehire and retrain a new employee. An effective interview process can help identify the right people. Use some kind of personality assessment as well as an honesty test.

Once you start hiring better people, put your energy into keeping them. Understand what they expect and need from their job. Be willing to pay more than the competition. In the long run, you will be saving money by keeping good people longer. Beyond pay, make sure you have good managers who know how to manage people.

How do you create a customer-service culture?
After you hire the right people, create a customer service strategy that lists the behaviors employees should demonstrate. This strategy must b included into the employee orientation program, policies and incorporated in an ongoing training program and the reward and recognition program. One of our clients modeled themselves after the Ritz-Carlton hotels. They created 20 customer service commandments and put them on a tri-fold card for each employee to carry while at work. Each shift leader reviewed one of the commandments
with the team before they started work each day. This reinforcement process created a strong culture of customer service.

What makes an organization a great place to work?
Having good store managers is the most important ingredient. One of our clients has a written policy that says, "A manager’s most important role is to serve, grow and inspire his or her people — with no exception." Good companies train their managers to be good people managers. Interpersonal skills are essential. People want to feel management cares and is concerned for them as individuals. Poor "people skills" are one of the biggest factors that drive people away.

Additionally, in today’s workplace, job flexibility is critical. One-size-fits-all approaches to benefits have long since lost their effectiveness. Workers will migrate to a company with benefit packages and schedules that help them meet the demands of their lives.

A workplace that rewards and recognizes people also builds higher productivity and loyalty, and can create consequences for desired behavior that leads to organizational success. In addition, training and development gives people greater control and ownership over their jobs, making them capable of taking care of customers, and creating better management-employee relationships.

What do you feel is the most critical challenge facing companies today?
Charles Darwin said, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." The most critical challenge businesses face is the ability to innovate and drive change from the bottom to the top of the business. There is a difference between "managing" and "leading" the organization. The business with the most effective leadership will last the longest