Great In-Store Experiences

I just had a great experience at a Panera.  This week a new Panera opened up my little town outside of Cincinnati.  A successful launch was not guaranteed by the folks at corporate.  The location did not show up in a search using the Panera app.  That meant the store hours were a mystery and online ordering was impossible.  Not even all the product offerings had arrived on-site.  And yet, the location overcame those obstacles.

Driving by earlier in the week, a very large banner announced the location would be, “OPENING TUESDAY.”  On Tuesday before 6 am, they replaced the banner with “NOW OPEN.”  That made it easy for me to decide to stop in for a visit.

Upon entering the store, I found it generously staffed.  They knew it was opening day and were not taking any chances. I observed that almost every role was double staffed.  Interestingly, they had paired junior staff with someone more experienced in the role. Since it was Day 1, it became clear that the experienced staff came from other locations.  They were staffed not just to create great experiences but also to train their new staff.

While ordering from the in-store kiosk, a friendly team member reminded me that they had an offer on the You Pick 2 meal option.  I had some questions: Did the offer apply if I ordered multiple entrees?  She had all the answers.  It was clear she had been well briefed on the promotion.

When I tried to order a bottled Lemonade, my helper quickly apologized.  They had not received the right shipment, and that product was not in stock.  Some thought had already gone into how to deal with this dilemma.  Therefore, she didn’t have to struggle with the solution: Lemonade was also available from the soda fountain.

Challenges abound in retail and hospitality.  Yet, great experiences are achievable.  What capabilities are required to create these experiences?

Task Management—a clear way to assign location-level tasks and ensure they are completed.  Tasks include: store displays, signage, safety checks, cleaning and maintenance

Open Schedules—open to allow site staff to pick up additional shifts when events dictate. And open to allow staff from other locations to pick up shifts across locations.  To be most effective, this also requires that shifts have distinct qualifications (ex. Cashier Level 4 vs Cashier Level 1) that map to employee qualifications

Micro Training—bite-sized trainings to quickly educate staff on product offerings and promotions

Just in Time Communications—information delivered to employees just when they need it to allow for immediate adaptations (ex. Lemonade alternatives)

Leveraging these tools, companies can strive to better create great experiences every day!

This article first appeared here.