In my more than 30 years of retail experience, many of those as an auditor, I’ve been in hundreds of stores, observing how store employees handle funds and whether they follow procedures. I’ve seen a lot of loss – as both errors and fraud – and I’ve found most of it occurs because corporate is not getting timely information from their stores and can’t act fast enough to stop it.
When you don’t get reports about exceptions like over/shorts, refunds and void transactions quickly and regularly from your stores, you lose time to solve the problem – and, in turn, money. A week is too long to wait for information about a missing deposit. After a day or so, memories get fuzzy and it’s harder to track down and recover the funds. A month is too long to wait for information on cash on hand. In that period of time, thousands of dollars can go missing.
Combatting delayed reporting starts by looking at your own policies. You could be your own worst enemy by not requiring the right information to be reported at appropriate intervals. Ask these questions about the reports you get from stores:
- How many do your stores complete?
Determine how many reports you require from stores each day, week and month and periodically review and assess the information you’re asking for. Are all the reports necessary? Could any be combined? Are any of them asking for information you don’t use to improve your business today? I’ve seen many situations in which a store or corporate (or both!) didn’t know why they collected particular information. They just always had, so they continued to do it.
- How often are they completed?
Look at your corporate procedures to find out if you’re asking for key information too infrequently to be efficient or if stores aren’t following the timelines you’ve defined.
- How are they sent to you?
Delivery methods range from email to fax to mail to shipping service. Is the method you’ve chosen expedient and cost-efficient enough?
- How many people deal with them at corporate?
Examine who needs which reports and why. When multiple staff members at corporate deal with reports, delays can occur because they aren’t communicated quickly enough internally or because they are handled too many times.
- How do you act on the information you gather?
Once you’ve received store reports, what do you do with the information? Do you enter it into another system? Do you have a procedure for quickly identifying potential issues or outlier stores? If you do spot a trend, what action do you take?
Careful examination of procedures is important when you want to improve any aspect of your enterprise. But reports are key to your business and must be prioritized. After all, they keep you in touch with your stores, their performance, and, ultimately, your customers.