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Create a Successful Staffing Program to Enhance the Customer Experience at Your Truckstop

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Human Resources

Editor's note: Darren Schulte, NATSO vice president of membership, frequently visits NATSO members to review their locations and offers impactful merchandising and operations improvements. Contact Schulte at dschulte@natso.com or (915) 526-5820 to learn more about the costs and details of this service.

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Competition is increasing, and we have to do everything we can to create a pleasant in-store experience for customers, particularly in our industry where our shoppers demand speed and convenience. One bad experience is all it takes to break a customer’s loyalty, and a single moment of customer frustration could cost you both customers and profits.

Operators need to have staff in place to move customers through the store quickly and provide the service they need, and finding the right employees gets harder and harder. That is why it is so important to create a successful staffing program.

Many of our members have seen the stories about how the retail industry is already struggling to find quality employees, and retail sales are on the rise as sales are expected to be $5 trillion this year. What’s more, a lot of states are pushing for wage increases. Something as small as a 10 percent increase can make it really expensive to run a business and difficult to be profitable. It may seem tempting to cut staff to improve the bottom line, but that can create a downward spiral that hurts the business.

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Instead, I think the key is to focus on retaining quality employees, hiring the right type of employee and staffing based on customer demand. 

Sometimes we do things a certain way because that is how we’ve always done them, but now is an excellent time to throw out your old measurements and your old way of staffing and take a fresh approach. Are you looking at truly when you’re busy? Are there periods when you’re overstaffed or understaffed? Could employees be cross trained to make them more effective? Sit down and forecast the location’s hours and number of employees each profit center needs.

Even if you have the right staff mix, think about how readily they can meet customers’ needs. I’ve been in locations before when managers were giving staff breaks during the busy lunch rush. You need to make sure you’re staffing appropriately so customers have a successful shopping trip.

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Also, now is a great time to think through employees’ shifts. There are traditional shifts that employees work, but maybe it would make sense to change them up. Have you considered times that would accommodate working parents that need to get their children off to school or want to be home before the school bus drops them off?

One of the things that can attract workers to our industry is the wide variety of hours available to work. Creating flexibility could help you attract great employees.

Because retaining employees is so important, you could also consider conducting “stay interviews.” Exit interviews when staff leave give you insight into why they are going, but stay interviews can give you information on why employees stay. You can learn from these employees to help keep others on board.

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Today we have an unemployment rate just over 4 percent. That makes it very different to staff a store than when unemployment was 15 percent. I’d love to hear more about what you’re doing as part of your staffing plan, and I challenge you to find creative solutions to your HR needs.  

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/// Did you know most weeks can find Darren Schulte, NATSO's Vice President of Memebrship, visiting a NATSO member truckstop location, spending three to four days, using his merchandising and operations expertise to help them grow their business? Learn about NATSO’s Profitable Retail Review program here.

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 Photos Credit: NATSO

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About the Author

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte serves as Vice President of Membership at NATSO. In this role, he directs recruitment, retention and customer service for truckstop and travel plaza members. He is also responsible for developing NATSO products and programs, particularly those relating to education, research and training for truckstop and travel plaza operators.

Schulte also leads NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program. A Profitable Retail Review is a custom assessment of your truckstop, including recommendations for every aspect of your facility, from actionable ideas to improve revenue to tactical ways to improve your net operating costs. Learn about NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program here.

Schulte joined NATSO with nearly three decades of experience in truckstop and travel plaza operations and merchandising. Schulte has worked for: 

  • Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores,
  • HESS Corporation, 
  • Petro Stopping Centers, and
  • TSC Global/Barjan LLC.