Recently Action Card held a conference call with wireless retail dealers in the Sprint dealer channel. The topic of the discussion was regional store visits. The challenge many dealers face is ensuring that their regional and district field managers are affecting positive change in the stores. We had tenured sales and operations people on the call and a productive exchange regarding brand standards, sales, operational consistency and compliance from store managers.
Compliance Begins with Buy-In
One of the most valuable points brought up by one of the Sales Directors on our call was the importance of store manager buy-in. Everyone agreed that if the only reason store managers were following your defined brand standards was because they had to, that store would be on the bubble. The regional manager making the visit needs to coach, mentor and sell the “why.” If your brand standards are well-written, they should reinforce the customer experience and should not be tough to rally around. If you can get store managers to internalize your standards, they push it down to the sales staff and your compliance checklist items start to manage themselves.
Objective and Measurable
Another item of agreement on our call was that the criteria to which your stores are held accountable should be clear, objective and measurable. I know what empty pegs and hooks are but “clean” is subjective. Make sure your managers know what the definition of clean is and you’ll avoid acrimony between your fastidious regional manager and your less-detail oriented but extraordinarily talented store manager.
Follow Up and Accountability
One of our participants who conducts store visits in her territory made a great point. She acknowledges the positives, gives credit to the staff and reviews the items that require attention, sets a mutually agreed upon follow up date for completion and then makes a point of checking back on that date to ensure the items have been reconciled. The best way to undermine outcomes on store visits is to put more time into reviews then into the post-review follow up. Reinforcing best practices and publicly giving credit is a good way to build trust and good will with store managers and their staff. It also helps when you need to drop the hammer on items that have not been taken care of during the agreed upon time.
Engage the Staff
This one is basic. You’re not able to get into your stores nearly as often as you like, so when you do, make it count. Come in with energy, engage the staff and be happy to be there. This is what you’re asking them to do to make customers feel welcome. What you say means everything and what you don’t say means more. Don’t spend your time with your head buried in a clipboard.
Wireless retail is a competitive and ever-changing industry. Commission schedules, rate plans, new phones and turn-over create a lot of noise and reactive behavior. Remember that your number one job as a leader in the field is to put your people in the position to do their jobs well. If you are dinging your managers for lack of compliance, ask yourself why they struggle and what you can do to help them fix it. Good regional managers look at the results of store visits as a reflection of their leadership. Look at the results of your store visit reviews as road maps for the work you need to do with each store..