The World's Unsexiest Business
adding a little sizzle to the convenience store industry
In some instances, I will refer to the people that work for you as team members while in other instances, they'll be your staff and CSRs. As for the precise nomenclature:
Staff / Team Members / Your People: any office or store level employee
CSR: store level customer service representative (employee)
While the above interaction may be slightly exaggerated, it's by no means far fetched. After all, your CSRs are human and can have bad days. You certainly cannot control their temperament nor should you feel the need to do so. But what you can largely influence is the environment of your (and equally their) workplace -- creating and then nurturing open communication and hopefully even (God forbid!) camaraderie. The skeptics might say there's no time for this frivolity or that the development of these 'softer' initiatives pave the way to an incessant stream of rants ultimately leading to possible workplace discontent. To which I'll retort with a reference to Walt Doyle's (CEO of GasBuddy) take on what I'll refer to as the a harsh reality for the Retail 1.0 crowd. (That being the generation of retail entrepreneurs that refuse to embrace digital marketing/communication/lifestyle. By the way, we're currently somewhere around the 4.5 release.)
You no longer own your brand
And the vehicle for this experience? Your people. Well, that is unless you've got Alexa exclusively taking care of your checkout process.
Since you're trying to deliver a message to your people first give them a platform to have their voice be heard. Weed out the whiners and complainers so you can get to the most meaningful content and then seek to empower or, at minimum, partner with those with the most realistic and actionable execution plan. And don't forget to not only give credit for the idea but also reward the generator(s).
But, if after that semi-exhaustive process, nothing of value is contributed or worse yet, bad team player behavior persists and has truly become the downfall of your business, start getting existential -- without romanticizing or reminiscing about the good 'ol days when things weren't so complicated.
We not only let our people represent us but also empower them in such a way that's a marked departure from our own ethos - the entrepreneurial 'winning' spirit and energy. That 'can do' attitude we personally embody served as the initial catalyst for our successful foray into profitability. We made it work because we HAD to. And once we found the winning formula we replicated it thus allowing us to grow the business. So while we currently still very much figuratively wear that winning attitude on our sleeves, many times it never manages to make it past our wrist. For however much energy we think we're investing in our people, we can't trust they will learn strictly by proximity, observation ('follow the leader'), or even osmosis.
Back to Reality
Alternatively, you think you're doing everything possible to communicate the perfect mix of vision, values, and training. But are you simply 'beating a dead horse'? Do you need to micromanage every customer service interaction until you finally create such an inhospitable work environment that you're the last (wo)man left standing? So much that your people are so scared talk to anyone not to mention your own customers.
And who's to blame?
Michael Jackson might have a few profound words to say about it in his hit song Man in the Mirror.
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
Former GE CEO Jack Welch has been known to many times say, "The team with the best players wins." I'll extend that by stating that the players with the ideal mix of great attitude and endless stream of motivation will continue to knock it out of the park. Sure it sounds somewhat Utopian and you might even think it operates within a tightly constrained vacuum but brands like Amazon, Apple, Costco, and Salesforce really do get it (just about) right. They tend to set the customer service bar exceedingly high and then even surpass that lofty mark.
You can't control your competitors' actions just as much as not being to control fate. But what you can largely influence (as mentioned before) is the consumer experience -- a top rate one being delivered by a top notch team led by the best management.
From Idea to Execution.
The Boring Disengaging Training Video.
Throw. It. Out.
If it came from the 'mothership' (the big impersonal corporate vehicle) that seems to talk more about improving your (highly dependent) relationship on each other than it actually spends time doing, definitely part ways. But don't misunderstand that as being a call to arms starting with a rant and ending in a full blown rebellion. With a keen eye towards being highly discretionary, there may some things worth considering or even incorporating into your content mix -- you need to pick and choose the best value adding content. Without getting too Zen, it's the stuff that really strikes a chord with your mind and heart.
As the ultimate litmus test, if you find yourself cringing for even a split second, then it should never be shown to your people.
Create or Procure Your Own Content
Point. Click. Shoot. Then spend a little time to edit.
That homegrown effort might even lend itself into the creation of a profitable media company. And here I go again with the Gary Vaynerchuk reference. (Again, no endorsement $ coming my way.)
He doesn't think it's a very far fetched fantasy.
Not only is the undertaking relatively cheap, your team (in addition to yourself) might find themselves having fun in the process and gain a much deeper insight into your identity and then will be in a much better position to formulate the unique list of attributes that truly separate your brand from your peers. It may actually be one the easiest ways to nurture a brand without having to call in so-called experts who only attempt to ask you the right questions while leaving you the heavy handed task of implementing their 'expensive' recommendations.
Fear the Emotionally Intelligent Boss. Fire the Dictator.
You've managed to get the content sorted out and are ready to spread the gospel. The most fully invested leader in your organization will need to drive home the unique message. Scratch that. It's going to have to the ultimate visionary. The head honcho. Herein referred to as the 'boss'. The fearless leader. Of course, with no reference to a certain former North Korean leader.
Some ground rules.
If the boss doesn't manage to evoke even the slightest amount of fear in the people he/she manages, I'd consider that a failure to manage effectively. The fear is symbolic because it signifies that your people really are invested in their own performance and how they're being perceived. But it's all about precise execution in leveraging a time based play. Fear the boss the minute he/she shows up but then have that very fear quickly turn into a more relaxed communication with the reassurance that 'all is well in the kingdom'. The nature of the fear itself is not adversarial but gives rise to evoking the same feeling of nervousness you might've experienced the moment prior to finding out about the results of a big examination.
If the boss needs to address issues, consider having it being limited to the One Minute Reprimand devised and popularized by Ken Blanchard.
It takes a boss with a high degree of emotional intelligence to be able to execute this particularly well. One that knows how to deal with adversity and failure with an equally positive influencing show of leadership.
Taken too far, the desired results never come about and an authoritative regime comes to power. That's a very easy to way get things in order and play the short game. Forget about trying to scale the business around that model. And that coveted respect? Think more resentment followed by systemic disengagement.