Behind all that we get to see in a modern retail store – organized aisles/merchandising, wide range of products, uniformed employees, payment terminal with readers and scanners, a cool and clean environment, designer interiors, lighting and seating arrangements etc. there’s a multitude of integrated business processes at work in the background to ensure that the customers have a pleasant and delightful in-store experience. These business processes have to be planned in advance and executed with utmost precision. It’s easy said than done. Firstly, there are several processes involved in the functioning of a retail store like customer service, inventory, staffing, finance and accounting etc. with each process having unique operations. Secondly, these processes need to be integrated at the right places. To overcome these challenges in managing of processes, retail stores can go for SOP development. Developing Standard Operating Procedures can help retail stores in five important areas.
Through planned store merchandising, retail stores can ensure an appealing visual display environment and also provide an easy shopping experience for customers. It can also help a retail store achieve upselling and cross-selling. Effective merchandising often leads to impulse purchases as well. And most importantly, planned to merchandise help retail stores effectively manage its available space and provide convenience to employees in stacking arrangements. Merchandising is not a one-time effort. To continue deriving the benefits of merchandising, retail stores need to lay down stringent merchandising procedures in place and ensure that these procedures are being consistently followed by the employees on an everyday basis. Different stores use different positioning criteria for the display of their products. These criteria include – category-wise (departmental stores), alphabet-wise (pharmacies), price-wise (bakeries and confectioners), on the basis of brand name (apparel stores) etc. SOP (Standard operating procedures) procedures can prove to be very useful for employees in retail stores for sorting, stacking and placing of products in their designated areas right from the moment fresh inventory reaches the store.
Through planned store merchandising, retail stores can ensure an appealing visual display environment and also provide an easy shopping experience for customers
Customer service can be simply defined as the organized set of efforts performed by a business enterprise to create customer satisfaction and customer delight through customers’ shopping experience. Customer service goes beyond smiles and behavior. It encompasses a wide range of focus areas which include ensuring availability of products, organized merchandising for the convenience of customers, home delivery for bulk purchases in local areas, a customer-friendly communication policy for providing information on promotional offers and gathering productive customer feedback, adherence to product return policies, proper billing, a swift and effective grievance redressal mechanism etc. Working in these areas not only helps a retail store render customer service but also gives them a competitive edge. Thus, customer service has evolved as a strategic business process which cannot be left to chance. This process has to be built on stringent operating procedures to ensure that the established standards of the retail store are met in every area and store’s performance exceeds customers’ expectations. Documented operating procedures for employees in the form of SOPs in various operations of customer service process can help retail stores maintain high standards of customer service to create and maintain a delightful shopping experience for their customers.
It encompasses a wide range of focus areas which include ensuring availability of products, organized merchandising for the convenience of customers, home delivery for bulk purchases in local areas, a customer-friendly communication policy for providing information on promotional offers and gathering productive customer feedback
Supply and Inventory
Irrespective of the size and operations, maintaining adequate storage and a steady flow of inventory is vital for retail stores to avoid stock out situations and thereby prevent customers from turning to competitors. Ensuring steady inventory levels involves real-time and accurate stock information reporting mechanism, timely reordering, smooth internal indenting process and effective storage/warehousing and logistical solutions. Use of modern-day supply chain management practices and technologies like SKU (Stock Keeping Unit), NOS (New Old Stock), GPS tracking and supply-chain ERP application have become very popular with many retail stores to effectively and efficiently manage their inventory. But to ensure that the inventory processes and associated technologies facilitate a healthy and stable inventory management, retail stores need to establish clearly-defined operating procedures for the execution of these processes in tune with the technologies in place. Retail stores can achieve this end with SOP development and implementation. A systematic step-by-step approach to execute operational activities will help in timely and accurate reporting and decision-making pertaining to the inventory levels, indenting, reordering, logistics, storage and warehousing.
Ensuring steady inventory levels involves real-time and accurate stock information reporting mechanism, timely reordering, smooth internal indenting process and effective storage/warehousing and logistical solutions
Store Safety and Security
To protect and safeguard employees, customers, equipment and inventory from potential hazards or from the consequences of any unforeseen incident, safety and security are of paramount importance in retail stores. Theft, fire, damage to building and accidents arising from the use of faulty electrical, mechanical and electronic equipment are some of the common safety and security risks in a retail store. Different kinds of retail stores are exposed to different kinds of safety and security risks. This calls for the implementation of adequate protective and preventive measures for safety and security in retail stores. SOPs can prove to be very instrumental in maintaining the established standards of safety and security in retail stores. The measures adopted by retailers to ensure safety and security in their stores can be incorporated into the routine operating procedures. This will help ensure that there’s a routine check on the established safety and security parameters of the store. Timely renewal of insurance cover, properly working condition of CCTV cameras, deployment of security guards from reliable agencies, procedures for using equipment in stores, placing fire extinguishers and first-aid facilities etc. are some of the necessary measures that need to find a place in the SOPs of retail stores.
The measures adopted by retailers to ensure safety and security in their stores can be incorporated into the routine operating procedures. This will help ensure that there’s a routine check on the established safety and security parameters of the store
Training is a very important area of work all for retail stores. There is a host of processes involved in running a retail store and these processes are executed by the employees. Any glitch on the part of an employee can cause the entire system to slow down or even arrive at a halt. Therefore, it becomes important to impart necessary training to the employees to make sure that the operational activities in every process are executed as per the established standards leading to the smooth functioning of the entire store. For example, the employees in charge of the stock should be well-acquainted with the operating procedures of the store’s inventory management. Any shortcoming in performance on the part of stock/inventory management process will have a direct bearing on another crucial process i.e. customer service. SOP-based training programs have emerged as very effective tools for making employees ready for the job in a short span of time. Training modules built on a step-by-step learning methodology emulated from the actual SOPs at work help employees quickly understand the flow of work and the standards of output/performance required to be delivered at each stage.
Training modules built on a step-by-step learning methodology emulated from the actual SOPs at work help employees quickly understand the flow of work and the standards of output/performance required to be delivered at each stage
The outer glitter and glimmer of retail stores rest on the foundation of robust internal processes built on systematic and integrated operating procedures. And these operating procedures can be designed with the help of SOP mechanism. With more and more retail stores opting to go omnichannel, SOPs (combined with emerging technologies) will continue to serve as a useful management tool for the integration of business processes.
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Chief Operations Officer