Highly Successful Retail Managers (HSRMs) do not manage from afar with little or no contact.
Of course they can’t always physically be with all of their people but they stay connected and accessible to all.
HSRMs ensure that all direct subordinates feel free to contact them at any time.
The stores’ hours of operation are the minimum hours the pager/mobile is turned on and answered.
One important note here – the HSRM has trained his people to cope with most things on their own, so while we say that the HSRM is accessible at any time, it is understood that he will not be called or paged every time a question comes up.
The HSRM has competent people working in his store(s) and knows that, when they are trying to contact him, there must be a good reason for it.
And if there is a good reason, then he absolutely should be accessible.
If, for some particular reason, the HSRM is not in a position to handle calls or pages from subordinates then he has designated someone else capable of handling situations at that level.
A short discussion on empowerment has to take place here because it goes hand in hand with the HSRM’s rules of accessibility.
In many companies, or work groups, it is clear that empowerment is just a word and means nothing. But in the HSRM’s store(s), empowerment is taken seriously and works well.
If employees understand, and truly believe, that they are empowered to make decisions that will enhance the relationship between the retail organization and the customer and that they will not be harshly criticized or reprimanded in the event of a mistake or error in judgment, then empowerment works.
If, on the other hand, employees are told that they are empowered to make decisions and then are reprimanded or ridiculed because a decision or action they took was incorrect, then empowerment is simply a word and no employee will feel comfortable making decisions.
If the employees in your organization feel they must ask someone higher up for a decision that the employee themselves were capable of making, you do not have empowerment working properly for you in the organization.
Store associates are dealing with the public and one never knows when something extraordinary will happen possibly requiring the attention of management.
There is no rule book or guide or policy manual that could possibly cover all of the events or circumstances that retail people come up against on a daily basis.
That is why empowerment is so important to the HSRM. His business cannot operate properly unless it is in firmly in place.
Because the HSRM has built a culture of information sharing and ongoing training, there would be at least one person – usually the person in charge – who could easily handle most situations in the store at all times.
The HSRM has these rules in place:
Rule #1 – never ask the customer to go away and come back when the next level of management is available – the fact that you do not have someone, in the store, who is capable of dealing with the problem is not the customers fault and they should not be inconvenienced.
Whoever is in charge is running the business – that person should know what to do.
Rule #2 – all employees have the authority to solve the customers problem as he sees fit. Clearly, they require good training in order to do this.
They must understand how to handle unusual situations and to keep the best interest of the company in mind as well as the best interest of the customer.
Rule #3 – in the most extraordinary of circumstances, the next level of management must be contacted quickly so that some resolution can take place while the customer is in the store in order to minimize inconvenience.
Rule #4 – it is always clear to store personnel who to contact in the case of extraordinary circumstances and where to find the contact information.
No employee should be in a position to be looking all over and calling other stores just to find the contact information of the individual they need to speak with to resolve the customers issue.
Rule #5 – the next level of management who is supposed to be available for these emergency calls must, in fact, be available.
In the end, really, what does the company stand to lose by empowering people as long as the customer was taken care of? What is the exposure versus the benefits?
It is important to remember that employees have access to the company’s cash, inventory and perhaps your most important asset, your customer.
You trust them with those things. If they are good, honest employees, it is highly unlikely that anything they do to satisfy the customer will present a risk to your business.
Naturally this assumes that an employee is not engaging in willful misconduct or sabotage against the company.
Of course, if an error in judgment is made and things go wrong, then the HSRM coaches or retrains the individual to make him better for next time.
The HSRM determines the risks, takes precautionary measures and then empowers the people.