Sharing best practices with in-store execution, store data collection and retail audits is the primary purpose of the Compliantia blog. To this end, we have addressed the following:
- How to build a retail audit checklist
- How to implement a retail audit process
- The purpose, scope and best practices of store execution
- How to choose a retail audit software vendor in six steps
The scope of this post is to discuss what should happen before, during and after an audit to a store such as a merchandising, service and/or loss-prevention audit.
Step 1: Schedule the audit
Using the audit tool built-in calendar or your enterprise calendar, schedule the audit. Some audits are announced to the store’s management. This is typically the case with merchandising audits, particularly those preceding an in-store merchandising campaign or seasonal program. Here, the point of the audit is to get the store to prepare for the program and execute the facets of the seasonal program as communicated by head office. Other audits may be “unannounced” in which case the district manager shows up unannounced to conduct an on-the-spot audit. This is often the case with service and health & safety compliance where the purpose of the audit is to gauge the store’s compliance with standards on a typical day with no additional preparation or training immediately prior to the audit.
Tip for Compliantia users: Simply check “Announced” or “Unannounced” when scheduling the audit in the built-in Calendar. If the audit is announced, an email is sent to the store’s management and the audit appears in the store’s own calendar. If the visit is unannounced, the audit shows up in the district manager’s calendar but not in the store’s calendar and no emails are sent.
Step 2: Prepare for the audit
Look up the current ownership and management. Look, compare and analyze past audits, put the information in perspective. Look for trends, repeat unacceptables and location to district averages. If you have any notes, compile them ahead of time.
Tip for Compliantia users: From your dashboard, look up the store to view the store details including current ownership and management. When on the store page, click on “Visits to store” to view all visits to this store. Also use the “Trends” report to view a color-coded history of issues at that store. Lastly, us the “Location vs average” report to compare this store’s performance to its district or the national average. If need be, add notes to the scheduled audit; they will be carried over to the audit when it starts.
Step 3: Conduct the audit
Most audits are conducted from the outside in. Whenever possible, sections should be laid out to match the natural flow of a visit (a district manager physically walking the store). Start with the exterior (the parking lot if applicable, the window in a mall location) and work your way in, around the aisles and into the back of the store. While you can jump around between sections during or after the visit, setting up the form according to the natural flow of a visit saves time and is more intuitive. For more information, please refer to How to build a retail audit checklist
Tip for Compliantia users: Build the form online using the built-in “Form builder” or build it in Excel and import it (also using the Form builder).
Step 4: Use the device that works best, switch if necessary.
Some users like to conduct the entire audit on their smartphone. Others prefer the tablet. Still others like to make a first pass on a smartphone or tablet then power up their laptop and augment the audit with additional notes.
Tip for Compliantia users: Compliantia is device-agnostic when working in “online” mode. Start the audit with the device of your choice and switch if need be.
Step 5: Take photos and add them to the audit to illustrate key points
A picture is worth the proverbial thousand words. Taking pictures and adding them to the audit is both quick and easy. It helps the auditor illustrate exceptional performance as well as issues and concerns.
Tip for Compliantia users: adding a photo to an item is simply a matter of selecting the item, clicking the camera icon and taking a picture with your mobile or tablet.
Step 6: Don’t just report problems, assign them and get them fixed with the action plan
The action plan is an opportunity to apply corrective actions to problem areas. It designates an individual responsible for rectifying each problem (anything deemed substandard or non-compliant by the district manager during the audit) and a target date for resolution. By doing this, the action plan fosters ownership and accountability at store level. Read more about the action plan.
Tip for Compliantia users: Issues can be assigned to individuals one by one or in bulk. You control the granularity and whether no/some/all issues are assigned and to whom and their target date for resolution. And of course, Compliantia allows you to track it all using point-and-click reporting.
Step 7: Get the store buy-in, acknowledge the audit
Once the audit is completed, you may ask the store to “acknowledge” it. This is akin to an electronic signature and allows the store to sign-off on the audit (to ensure it did take place at the store, date and time specified). It also gives the store a chance to leave comments about the audit.
Tip for Compliantia users: Using the form builder, specify who is authorized to acknowledge the audit.
Step 8: Share the results with the store and head office
The completed audit will typically be shared with store management and head office. Emailing a link to the report, viewing the report online and/or exporting it to Excel or PDF should all be readily available.
Tip for Compliantia users: Using the form builder, set or restrict the visibility of the form by role and department if needed.
Step 9: Follow up on the action plan
Following up on an audit can be time consuming and involve back and forth email and phone communication. Thankfully, dedicated retail audit software makes this considerably easier, faster and more effective by automating the communication and tracking of outstanding action plan responsibilities.
Tip for Compliantia users: Use the “Action plan responsibilities” report to find out exactly what action plan items have been fixed, by whom and when and which remain outstanding.
Step 10: Plan your next audit
Retail never sits still, neither should audits. Repeat the cycle by scheduling your next audits and watch your store’s compliance and sales numbers take off!