Brittany Baird recently gave a two-part presentation for CHFA members, “Strengthening Buyer Skills.” As a grocery manager, store manager and general manager, and now as a consultant, Brittany has helped natural retailers increase net profit and sales growth and enhance operational efficiency.
Ultimately, improving sales, profit and efficiency comes down to improving the performance of human beings. And improving human performance comes down to effective feedback systems. Here’s a conversation I had with Brittany.
CC: Why is it so important to quantify feedback, to make it measurable?
BB: When feedback is intuitive and subjective, it may not be helpful to the receiver. It’s not enough to say, “Improve merchandising.” You need SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based). Giving feedback in this form can be an impetus for the receiver to grow – or choose to move on. Also, measurable goals make performance reviews easier, when it’s clearly defined what a good job means.
CC: Could you give some examples of measurable performance goals?
BB: You could set a goal of no more than five per cent out-of-stocks for buyers.
CC: Do you need to maintain a perpetual inventory in order to measure buyer out-of-stocks?
BB: Even without that, store managers can measure with occasional spot checks of the shelves. Plus, customer complaints can be tallied. Another example is to have written merchandising standards such as: end-caps and displays fully stocked, products colour-blocked, shelves clean and dusted, signage visible and products accessible from every angle of approach. You can have photos that show a well-stocked display. That way you can hold people accountable for what the sections of the store should look like.
CC: How can you measure customer service?
BB: Do you know the 10-4 rule? At 10 feet, you acknowledge a customer with eye contact and smile. At four feet, you greet them verbally. Then there’s how the phone is answered. How long are callers on hold? Do callers on hold get followed up on?
CC: A manager could tell that through occasional observation at different times of day.
BB: You can evaluate all the touch-points where staff interacts with customers, e.g. through social media clicks and views, and customer comments submitted.
CC: And special orders. You can record whether customers are notified within x hours that their product has come in, and how satisfied customers are with the service.
BB: I want to stress that you need to write out the criteria, the standards and the expectations if you are going to hold people accountable to them. You cannot hold staff accountable for performing up to a standard that is not written down.
CC: And you have to keep written materials up-to-date. As soon as one section of a manual falls out-of-date, I’ve observed that staff will stop using it. When it comes to maintaining systems, including training, everything is always needing refining and improving. Without that, you get a loss of organizational memory. Interestingly though, I don’t see front-end departments losing organizational memory of systems and standards the way other departments do. Maybe it’s because you have to stick with your systems for handling money and data.
BB: Quantifying is in the nature of POS and cash handling. There are also cash over/shorts and rings per minute. Where it’s more subjective is produce and deli.
CC: You can still measure performance in those departments in terms of accomplishing all the tasks on checklists or to-do lists.
BB: If you define what should be done on a shift, you can tell if you have a person who can do the job. Quantifying performance standards mitigates staff turnover and loss of organizational memory. If standards are clear enough, anyone off the street can understand and contribute to the department’s success