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If I knew then…

About the company:  Advance Financial, which operates 71 community financial service centers, offers alternative financial services like free money orders, free bill pay, pre-paid debit cards and lines of credit up to $4,000. Every one of the 71 retail stores are open 24/7.

The Mistake:

We were the quintessential mom-and-pop store when we started out, learning as we went, and we’ve made a lot of mistakes. When we made the decision to stay open 24 hours a day, it was a huge learning point for us. All of our customers loved it and our stores doubled in size, and it was just great, but we didn’t stop to think about how it was going to impact our staff.

We had a short-sighted outlook. We didn’t think that asking our employees to work till midnight when they’d been getting off at 6 p.m. for three years would have an impact on them. The way we rolled this out was probably a mistake, because we lost a significant portion of our staff when they couldn’t work the hours we needed them to work. This was a big turning point for us and we really had to learn to focus on our employee experience just as much as our customer experience.

The Lesson:

We learned that it’s great to focus on the customer and all the things that they want, but you also really have to focus on your employees. You have to figure out how to roll these kinds of changes out in the best way for your employees, so that when it is a success, those employees benefit from the success.

When we have things that our customers really want, we’ve learned to deliver that service while keeping in mind the impact it will have on the employees, and now know it’s all about balance. We understand how we can accommodate our employees’ needs, whether we are going to need to hire more staff or change staff, and we make sure we do that way ahead of time before we implement any changes. If your employees aren’t happy, your customers see that.

Going forward, we now ask for a lot more feedback from our employees. We’ve completely changed our management structure to a 5-to-1 ratio, which some people think is crazy, but every five stores has a district manager. This is so that every week, your district manager is spending an entire day in your store, coaching and developing that manager and making sure the staff has everything it needs. So when we get ready to roll something out, we go to those district managers and ask them for their opinions on the best way to implement a change because they’re on the ground floor every day.

After we do roll something new out, we always ask our employees to let us know where the problems and cracks are and really keep that open communication because they’re on the front lines. I’m at an office in Nashville and they’re spread out across the state seeing exactly how customers are reacting.

Original Source: Crain’s Nashville