How C-Stores are Improving Operational Efficiencies and Refueling Their Recovery
C-stores have seen massive changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Customer behavior has shifted dramatically, with convenience shoppers shifting from the usual snack items to categories such as ready-to-heat meals, cleaning and toiletry items. Employees are also behaving more cautiously during the pandemic, and are anxious about their safety during shifts.
These conditions make operational efficiency even more of a priority. Simplifying store operations processes for managers and associates can free up time for staff to execute important safety initiatives and ensure customers have a safe and enjoyable retail experience.
Convenience Store News recently featured Cumberland Farms (a banner within EG Group) and Reflexis in a webinar that explored how c-stores are improving store operations and responding to the pandemic. This webcast looked at how Cumberland Farms is using new strategies and innovative solutions to optimize labor spend, improve employee retention, and streamline execution processes across all stores.
Here’s how Cumberland Farms improved both communication and labor scheduling processes during the pandemic:
1. Communication: Improving Accountability and Visibility
With the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic constantly shifting, and with safety information being updated frequently, c-store retailers had to quickly communicate with stores and ensure that communication was being read and acted upon. It was essential that communication was complete, clear and descriptive of critical safety-related tasks.
Joshua Bradstreet, Business Director at Cumberland Farms, talked about how Reflexis Task Manager™ made it easy to manage communication across their organization, saying that “Everybody could see that the message was sent, that the message was received, and the message was understood. It was just starkly easier to handle [COVID-19] issues within the Cumberland Farms banner in large part due to Reflexis.”
Task management centralizes all critical on-site execution information on a single platform, ensuring that any tasks or communication sent from corporate can be viewed in real time, and that associates have a simple interface for accessing all work and information. With task management, Cumberland Farms was able to easily communicate COVID-19-related information and ensure all stores had seen and understood this information.
2. Labor Scheduling: Creating Precise and Equitable Schedules
Labor operations challenges play a large role in whether store associates are able to effectively carry out tasks during their shifts. These also impact employee morale and engagement; labor schedules that overburden store associates and don’t equitably distribute hours across associates can reduce staff enthusiasm and damage employee retention. Solving these challenges is especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it’s imperative to ensure staffing is adequate to carry out a number of COVID-19-related tasks.
During the webinar, Joshua Bradstreet talked about how intelligent workforce management improved labor operations at Cumberland Farms stores, saying that Reflexis Workforce Scheduler helped with “…the efficiency of automatically generating a schedule, making sure minimum coverages were met, and making sure there was an equitable allocation of available hours to all of our team members.” Intelligent workforce management reduces the complexity involved in labor budgeting, forecasting, and scheduling, controlling labor costs and ensuring that employees receive schedules that are fair and account for their work preferences.
Cumberland Farms also discussed how they plan on rolling out an employee self-service module to empower cross-store scheduling. Doing this will reduce employee overtime by sharing staff between stores instead of exclusively scheduling from a home store. It also gives employees more opportunities to pick up and swap shifts, providing employees with flexible labor schedules that fit their individual needs.