Stamp Out Pencil Whipping In Your Retail Chain

By Lin Chang April 23, 2021 Blog, Retail
store worker using checklist

The pandemic disrupted many daily procedures in the retail industry. Today’s retail chains and employees have to deal with health screening procedures, increased public health and safety training, more in-depth cleaning procedures, revised pickup and drop-off processes, even new protocols for allowing returns and limiting the number of shoppers in the store at one time.

Of course your retail chain has updated daily checklists to document all this; it’s necessary for legal documentation and regulatory compliance. And of course your store employees are perfectly diligent about filling out those forms every day.

But are they? On every shift, in every store? And if they’re not, how would you know?

Welcome to Pencil Whipping

Pencil whipping is the process of falsifying checklists and other compliance forms in any way, whether it be filling in times and dates for actions that didn’t happen, or actions that happened at a different time or were completed by a different employee. The result can be as serious as public safety compliance violations or other legal risks, as expensive as loss prevention failures, and as damaging as brand standard deficiencies resulting in the poor customer service that drives away repeat business.

The reasons that employees engage in what they view as a “little white lie” on your checklists can be as numerous as your staff. Maybe they ran out of time at the end of their shift. Maybe they’re not sure what’s included in that new procedure they’re supposed to be documenting. In this time of COVID-19, maybe they’re not entirely sold on the necessity of all the updated sanitation procedures.

This falsification problem is exacerbated by the historically high turnover rate in the retail industry. Even before the pandemic, the retail industry’s average employee turnover rate was three times the national average – 60 and 19 percent, respectively. Since the pandemic, many chains have faced a revolving door of downsizing, layoffs, and inability to rehire experienced employees as they’ve found other work – all in addition to the industry’s usual challenges. This revolving door means your stores are constantly undergoing cycles of employee onboarding and retraining. New retail employees often underperform due to insufficient training.

However, you and your store managers can’t personally be in every store standing over every employee as documentation is happening. A better solution is for your all your employees to fully understand the importance of correctly completing store processes and accurately filling in the forms – which, after all, are important legal documents for your business.

Legal Considerations

There’s the key concept: Legal documentation. Compliance regulations – and the forms that track them – exist because they’ve been shown to protect customers. If pencil whipping is happening on even one shift in any of your stores, it could put your entire business operation at risk. Not only are these procedures and lists an important part of consistently ensuring your stores are meeting the highest standards of public safety, loss prevention, and excellent customer service, but these lists are an integral part of meeting your legal obligations.

A good checklist provides a clear road map to protocol completion; it helps employees understand what to do and when, which reduces ambiguity and increases confidence. A digital, mobile checklist app goes beyond even these benefits, automatically recording each employee action for your official legal records. The app also plays an integral role in your chain’s training procedures and customer experience initiatives by storing all your training modules and assigning them by job description. Each employee goes online and completes only the training most relevant to their job – which means your training can drive home from day one the importance of correct procedures and accurate checklists.

Here’s exactly how today’s digital, mobile technology can bring accountability and consistency to operations throughout your chain.

Lose the Pencil, Gain Better Practices

It’s been said that, if you want to stop pencil whipping, eliminate the pencil. As mentioned above, digital field checklist and auditing software eliminates the opportunity to falsify records by documenting all operational actions in real time. Here’s how:

  • Your operations team uses the app to build standardized templates for all your checklists and procedures.
  • When it’s time to complete a required action, any employee can pull up the related checklist on the app on their phone.
  • They fill out the list with a few taps and swipes, easily adding extra details through dictation, photos or videos as necessary.
  • As soon as they hit send, the checklist entry is automatically saved with the time, the employee name, and the geolocation. This is now your business’ legal record.
  • Every entry from every store is visible through the app’s dashboard; anyone can see the status at any store and take action whenever they need to.

This is what builds in accountability, minimizes human error and establishes transparency throughout your operations. Each employee can do only their work; no one can claim that a task was completed in any way other than was noted in the digital checklist. The app also lets you create and roll out standardized quality assessment templates so that store audits can be completed quickly and easily, with all results immediately available on the dashboard.

When there’s a deficiency, such as a skipped bathroom check or an incomplete procedure, managers are prompted to create a remedial action plan that includes the task, a deadline, and the employee responsible for finishing the plan. That employee automatically receives completion reminders; when the plan is marked complete, all stakeholders automatically get notifications.

Consistency and Transparency for Everyone

Your retail chain has had a lot to deal with this past year. Any tool that can help your stores do more in less time and with fewer and newer employees, while still reducing risk and loss, is an essential investment that can meaningfully contribute to the success of your brand.

MeazureUp is a proven digital checklist solution that can confirm all the right actions are being taken on time, every time, in every store. It holds each of your employees accountable in a way that is objective and transparent for everyone; no one can get lazy about their responsibilities in regard to your store’s checklists. And your operations and management teams are kept completely in the loop at all times.

To learn more about how MeazureUp can bring honesty and accountability to your risk management operations while supporting a consistently great customer experience across all shifts and all stores, contact us today.