Culture and Collaboration Are Key to Brick-and-Mortar Success
As e-commerce sites such as Amazon continue to thrive, brick-and-mortar retailers face the growing challenge of luring customers from their computers and mobile phones to bring them out to their stores.
However, brick-and-mortar stores have one key advantage when it comes to gaining customers: physical interactions with shoppers. As soon as a customer walks in, sales associates can quickly assist with any questions. Because employees are usually the first and last person to interact with a customer, they have a big impact on shaping each customer's experience. That said, here are a few strategies for how retailers can provide store employees with the right tools to better serve customers.
Creating a winning company culture means keeping your employees happy and engaged. One of the best ways to engage employees is by supporting them in achieving a work/life balance. For most people, being able to choose when they work can be a huge perk. Many part-time employees balance multiple part-time jobs with school and family life. According to research conducted by Gallup in 2014, only 13 percent of workers felt engaged by their jobs and a sense of passion for their work. Employees who feel good about coming to work and feel a sense of pride and satisfaction while on the job are far more likely to deliver the quality of customer service you expect.
Today's retail workforce is dominated by Millennials. A recent Intelligence Group survey found that 88 percent of Millennials prefer a collaborative work culture to a competitive one, and 74 percent of respondents wanted flexible work schedules. If creating the right in-store experience is the secret to retailers' success—and happy, engaged employees are the key drivers of that experience—store managers must show they are keeping employees' best interests in mind.
When it comes to scheduling, employees need flexibility, which must be balanced with a sense of stability. Forward-thinking organizations are beginning to embrace strategies for making the scheduling process as interactive and collaborative as possible. Employees need a voice in determining their own availability, and each store's manager should also be able to easily track and map this against the budget and changing sales forecasts.
Scheduling should be an ongoing open conversation between each store's manager and its employees. Rather than imposing shift schedules, collaborative scheduling methods will empower your employees by enabling them to own and control their work hours based on their needs. Give them access to this conversation 24/7, and enable them to easily swap hours with one another and bid on upcoming available shifts. This new collaborative process will allow store managers to pull back from the process to focus on larger, more important issues.
Once your company has done away with inflexible archaic methods—such as Excel spreadsheets—in favor of smarter collaborative solutions driven by employee-manager conversations, you can get down to the business of finding other ways to boost customers' in-store experience. As with scheduling, your technology initiatives must consider people first. Your customers are coming to the store for human interaction. You must ensure that their experience is efficient but firmly rooted in that human element.
Make your customer service representatives' experience as efficient and streamlined as possible. Give employees easy accessibility to mobile devices that can facilitate on-the-fly inventory checks and allow them to reference daily forecasts and work schedules in real time.
If you're looking for ways to deploy beacon technology, consider how these methods can further assist your employees. If you're using beacons to track store traffic, the insights you gain can be applied to ensure that sales associates are in the right place at the right time to best serve customers in need.
Customers expect some level of tech savviness from their shopping experience, but the vast majority will be most impressed by a positive interaction with a well-trained, friendly, and efficient employee.
Actively empowering and engaging with your sales associates is the key to driving a healthier, more productive organization. Give them the tools they need to collaborate and succeed, and it will translate directly to customer satisfaction and sales.
David Farquhar is the CEO of Workplace. He has more than 20 years of global enterprise software experience and has held CEO positions at six companies, ranging from midmarket to start-ups.
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