You can have great merchandising, selection and product knowledge. But customers’ experience checking out through your front-end can make or break your store. How people feel after that interaction determines how they feel about your company.
This puts a premium on front-end department management—hiring people with the right fit, and training, coaching and motivating them to stay on the job. Customers appreciate those familiar friendly faces when front-end staff doesn’t constantly turn over.
In addition to supervising staff, a front-end manager must model impeccable customer service, schedule for appropriate register coverage, monitor accuracy in money handling and coordinate effectively with other departments.
To learn what’s involved in running a tip-top department, I turned to Mike McCary, front-end manager at BriarPatch Co-op in Grass Valley, California. Through its registers, BriarPatch pumps out sales of $24 million a year.
Mike McCary: When the Operations Manager interviewed me, she told me 75% of my time would be at my desk. In reality, it’s 60% because I’m needed more on the floor. Maintaining a strong floor presence is vital. Employees want to see that the manager is competent and not above doing any task they’re expected to perform. I don’t set expectations for my staff that I don’t set for myself. The manager must understand every role in the department—cashiers, customer service desk, utility clerks.
CC: Are there certain times you make a point of being on the floor?
MM: When I come to work, I set up a till for myself in case I need to jump on a register during times of high demand. The lunch rush is a madhouse. The express lane is particularly demanding and people need a break from it. I put myself on the express lane for an hour and the employees loved it. We have Owner Appreciation Months. Those are times of high stress. I’m sure to be there. I plan my vacations for other times.
CC: So what do you do during the 60% of your time at your desk?
MM: With 30 employees, evaluations are a priority. My work plan, which I review with my manager, includes all evaluations due, plus other projects. Also I spend time interviewing.
CC: How do you interact with all 30 staff?
MM: I work 10 to 6:30 primarily. That allows me to cross paths with everyone scheduled to work that day. I overlap with both assistant managers; one works opening shift, the other closing shift. Before I was hired, “assistant manager” was just a title. I’ve empowered them and they are my eyes and ears.
CC: What do you look for when hiring?
MM: With my assistant managers, we determined five key components to be a successful cashier: customer service first and foremost, cash-handling, safety, efficiency and attendance. And then the key qualities—honest, respectful, with integrity and inspiring. I talk about these with every new hire.
CC: How can the front-end work effectively with other departments?
MM: The front-end impacts department margins via misrings, handling of returns, etc. We can increase sales by how we perform. For example, we have a congested parking lot. By making checkout fast and friendly we can get people out of there and allow more cars in.
CC: What keeps you going in your job?
MM: People want your attention and help in the front-end. I love it and get a kick out of it and get recharged by it. Serving customers gives energy back to you tenfold.