The Store Tour Con

 In Be The Leader, Customer Experience, Remarkability

URGENT MESSAGE: Boss is in market visiting stores. At ours now. Could be headed anywhere within the district. Be prepared!

It is one of the oldest tricks in the book. And, from what I can tell, happens in nearly every business.

Word gets out that the “boss” (whether it be the district manager or founder of the company) will be visiting locations.

Locally, they choreograph exactly which locations and at which time the boss will visit. If time allows, stores receive an extra scrubbing and schedules are re-written to feature the “best” employees.

Everyone puts on a good face for the boss…

Like directing the camera on the set of a movie, the boss sees only what they want to show him.

Lights! Camera! Boss Tour!

I witnessed this at 16 years old as a burger flipper at McDonald’s. And at every job since… And, this isn’t just the stuff of fast food restaurants and retail stores – it also happens in the cubicles of office buildings.

I get it… No one wants to get in trouble or reprimanded. Self-preservation is human nature.

But, there is something wrong if the only time you think to “do things by the book” “not cut corners” or “do a deep clean” is when you’ve got the boss coming. The worst of it… We’re missing the point. The show shouldn’t be for the boss during their 20-minute random store visit on a semi-annual business. But to your paying customers who are there every single day – from the moment your doors open, until close.

Two Sets Of Advice

Advice A: For The “Boss”

You can’t rely on the experience you have with your entourage touring stores for the day. Understand, even if you didn’t call ahead and your visit is ’spontaneous’ – with that first location visit the news spreads like wildfire. Phone calls and text messages zip to surrounding locations like wildfire. The area is on high alert. Behavior has been modified until you leave and someone signals the “all clear” signal.

So, enjoy. Shake hands. Ask good questions. Re-energize the company culture. See how you can provide support. But don’t rely that “what you see is what you get.”

If the only motivation for change of behavior is you (the boss) spotting it and calling it out – you’ve got problems. You need secret shoppers. Friends, family, colleagues who can share the truthful highs and lows of your locations.

Advice B: For The Local Managers

From what I’ve experienced – the reason you have to “put on a show” for the big boss – and stress everyone out with the fire drill is you are either…

  1. Doing the job the best you can – despite that are not wholly successful – and need some more help. Or,
  2. Barely good at your job and get by with the “smoke and mirror” routine.

If you are (1) Doing the best you can…

What is wrong with letting the boss see reality? What the customer experiences when the boss isn’t present.

It will demonstrate that there are problems that need fixing. That you need more help – maybe more staff, or less responsibility, or more learning.

Maybe you can be the one to show, “Hey, we’re doing it by the book – but it just isn’t working. We need to re-write the book.”

If you are (2) Squeaking by through deception.

If rigging your location is what is keeping you from being fired – maybe you should be fired. The company isn’t doing you… and you aren’t doing the company any favors.

Maybe you got away with it this time. Maybe you’ve bought yourself another 6-months or a year before another pop-in visit. Maybe you think you’ve got the system beat… Maybe you’ll even quit

However, as I stated at the top, I’ve seen this behavior in every job I’ve worked. And, in every job I’ve worked I’ve seen these people eventually ejected from the company.

In Closing…

Listen, I don’t expect to change the world with my articles… And I know this was a quasi- if not full-on rant.

But with this post, I hope I can reach a few people – both at the “big boss” level and at the unit/store level – and simply point out how prevalent, yet short sided, and ridiculous this behavior is.

If this is happening in any form, it is ultimately affecting your customers. No matter how solid the con is played – eventually customers will let you know the “truth.” They will complain. Or worse – stop using your business. They’ll vote with their wallet.

Does your company allow “mistakes” and “failure” to be learning lessons? Or is the con on at your business too? What have you experienced? Does your company have a way around this?

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