The produce section of a grocery store.
Act 1, Scene 1
A long-time grocery executive pays a visit to the store and notices some grapes on the floor. A produce employee is near by.
EXECUTIVE: Excuse me, sir; there are a few grapes on the floor over there.
PRODUCE EMPLOYEE: Oh yeah, I saw them. We do our sweep logs every hour, so I was going to clean them up then.
EXECUTIVE: Okay. How often do you use the restroom?
PRODUCE EMPLOYEE: Uhh, whenever I have to?
EXECUTIVE: Okay, from now on how about you sweep whenever you have to, and use the restroom at 1 PM and 6 PM?
End of Scene
The morale of the above scene is not to embarrass employees, but rather help them (and their companies) understand that just because routines are in place, doesn’t mean we should put them in front of the needs of our customers and stores. Clearly if there are safety issues we should solve them right away.
It’s a good thing that companies have sweep schedules, bathroom-cleaning schedules, and rotation schedules to keep the stores clean and safe. But if employees notice something out of the norm in your stores, chances are your customers notice it too. So while you shouldn’t go rushing to eliminate those routines, here are a couple ways to combat the potential gaps they can create and exceed customer expectations.
Lead by example.
I know, I know – you’ve heard this before. But it really works. For example, a prior professor of mine once owned a restaurant franchise and he was stopping by one day to check up. When he got to the store, he noticed a bun on the floor in the lobby and three employees standing at the registers. Instead of telling the employees to clean it up, he bent down, picked it up, and threw it away as his employees watched. Do you think those employees know what he expects now? If a manager can break routines for the betterment of the store, so can employees.
Empower your employees to break routine.
Maybe the employee in the introduction didn’t understand that it is his responsibility to keep the floor clean even if it means sweeping a little early. Let your employees know that you depend on them to keep the stores clean and safe. If employees feel like they have the power to make some decisions, it allows them to be proud of their work and take matters into their own hands.
Whether your routines are on the front lines like a sweep log, or on the back end like checking your daily performance, don’t let routines hold you back from providing the best customer service. As soon as you’re alerted of an issue that could have a potential negative impact on your business, fix it! Always strive to reach your full potential as opposed to just getting by.