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    Implementing an If/Then Plan

    Train your employees on what to do before it happens.

    By Terry McKenna, Convenience Store Coaches

    As the owner and leader of your business, a key responsibility is ensuring your employees are prepared to succeed. This involves ongoing training and skill development, coaching, feedback, and recognizing and rewarding the desired behaviors in the areas of customer service, teamwork and personal responsibility. 

    Operating the cash register and everything else that goes on both inside and outside the store -- drive-offs, confused pay-at-the-pump customers and accidents -- is a lot to handle. When employees are shortchanged on training and don’t know what to do in certain situations, they feel unsure of themselves, overwhelmed and ill-prepared to perform their job. The end result is: they quit.

    When situations don’t go as planned, which happens all the time (it’s called life), your employees need a trigger tactic they can rely on to help them out. A good trigger tactic is the "If/Then Plan."

    The If/Then Plan tells you what action to take (then) when a specific situation arises (if). It pinpoints conditions for success, increases everyone’s sense of responsibility and helps close the troublesome gap between knowing and doing.

    For example, if a customer complains of a service failure -- out of gas or out of stock on their brand of cigarettes -- then you: 1) look the customer in the eyes, 2) offer a sincere apology, and 3) offer a complimentary fountain drink or coffee for the inconvenience. Under the If/Then Plan, the “if” cue of service failure is now directly wired into your employees' brains as the action they should "then" take.

    The objective is to create a link in your employees' brains between a certain situation or cue (if or when X happens) and the behavior that should follow (then I will do Y). Once the “if” part of the plan is detected, the mind automatically triggers the “then” part. In this way, employees establish powerful triggers for action. 

    Your employees now begin to execute the plan without having to think about it. The If/Then Plan makes your employees more aware and deliberate in their planning, so they not only understand, but also complete the required action.

    If/Then Categories

    You can apply the If/Then Plan to every level within your company: cashiers, store managers, store supervisors, director of operations, etc. First, identify the types of if/then categories by level of employee. For cashiers, the categories might be customer service failures, teamwork, retailing-merchandising and appearance, and safety-security-robbery. Store managers might have categories such as sales, net profit, expenses, shrink and inventory levels. If a certain sales or expense guideline is not met, then the store manager should do Y. 

    Next Steps

    Identify the job positions within your company that you want to apply the If/Then Plan to. My suggestion would be every job title that is directly responsible for store results. Next, brainstorm all the potential situations that could occur for each job position, along with the corrective actions for each. 

    At your next company meeting, review your If/Then Plan with all the affected job positions and ensure they fully understand exactly what to do (and what not to do). Be sure to incorporate your If/Then Plan into your new hire onboarding-training program. And finally, measure and follow up to ensure your plan is being executed.

    People respect what you inspect! 

    By Terry McKenna, Convenience Store Coaches
    • About Terry McKenna Terry McKenna is principal and co-founder of Convenience Store Coaches Inc. and Employee Performance Strategies Inc., where he helps convenience retailers achieve greater financial results by optimizing their workforce. McKenna can be reached at (910) 458-5227 or [email protected] He also maintains a blog at www.terrymckenna.typepad.com.

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