3 Strategies to Leverage Your Best Customer Service Asset: Your Employees
Your customers’ store experience — and impression of your brand — starts and ends with your frontline employees. Store associates are directly responsible for delivering your customer service model. Unfortunately, retail work has long had a reputation for low employee morale and high turnover, which can negatively impact employee satisfaction. Retailers have the opportunity to improve their employees’ well-being and, in the process, optimize the store experience for customers.
Even as the emphasis on omnichannel strategies continues to grow, the brick-and-mortar store remains a key channel for retailers and their customers. Seventy-eight percent of consumers surveyed said they still prefer to shop in-store, and they spend six times more than when they shop online. Consumers still have shopping goals that can only be met in-store, like trying on items, immediate ownership, and having a social experience.
When shoppers are in your store, you want your employees to be smiling, happy and helpful, not frustrated and disinterested. The engagement of retail workers isn't a foregone conclusion, and there are ample ways employers can improve employee morale. Here are three strategies for motivating your hourly workforce:
1. Streamline processes to save employees time.
Retail work comes with plenty of processes, from schedule distribution to requesting time off. In my experience working with large retailers, hourly workers haven't been able to leverage modern technology for their work tasks. Many teams are still using social media, phone calls, and printouts to manage routine tasks.
Could you imagine handling any of your professional tasks through printouts only? Likely not, yet based on our research, store managers are spending four hours to six hours per week on scheduling due to outdated processes. Those are hours that could be put into helping customers, training, or refreshing inventory.
The best way to inspire more productivity in your workforce is to empower them with the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. Retailers will want to take a hard look at their frontline processes, identify opportunities for improvement, and find solutions.
2. Give frequent appreciation and feedback.
Your workforce is likely composed of many millennials and, increasingly, Gen Z workers. Research shows that these generations value frequent, meaningful feedback. It validates their hard work and helps them feel confident they’re doing their job correctly. What’s more, employees of every generation appreciate a word of encouragement when they’re working hard.
However, communication tools for frontline employees are limited, as the typical hourly worker doesn't have a company email address. As a result, messages from company leadership are typically distributed by managers, but it can be hard to ensure that busy managers are relaying the message. Therefore, managers are typically relying on text messages, phone calls, and social media groups to communicate with their teams. These aren't secure, organized or reliable forms of communication for a productive team.
Retailers can establish a channel of communication between senior leadership, managers, and frontline employees. Ideally, employees would have access to a central hub for team communications, updates from managers, and announcements from the company. This facilitates frequent communication that fosters goodwill, transparency and accountability — all of which result in happier, more productive employees.
3. Ensure shifts are fully staffed.
Working when they’re short-staffed is tough on store employees. They have less help to do the work, but that doesn’t mean the line at the register will be shorter. It also means customers may have needs that associates can’t support.
In another scenario, stores might experience an unexpected spike in traffic that they’re not staffed to support. In yet another scenario, a shipment may arrive early and need processing. As business conditions shift, employees may or may not be equipped to handle them if there are numerous call-outs that day.
Being short-staffed hurts employee morale as well as customer service. Fortunately, retailers can explore ways to facilitate bulk shift posting and employee-to-employee shift swapping to decrease the frequency of no-shows. By doing so, you’ll be able to ensure call-outs are replaced and the store is appropriately staffed. This protects employees from experiencing undue stress and contributes to a better employee and customer experience.
Employee Engagement is Good for Business
Show your employees you value them. Provide them with the tools they need to succeed. Make sure they know they’re appreciated by telling them directly. Ensure they can work effectively as a team and have enough people for the work required. Do these things, and your employees will be happier, more likely to stay, and motivated to show customers exactly why you hired them.
Brett Patrontasch is CEO and co-founder of Shyft, the mobile-first workforce management solution empowering hourly workers to trade shifts, manage their schedules, and communicate with their teams.
Related story: How Retailers Can Improve Digital Customer Experience
Brett Patrontasch is CEO and co-founder of Shyft, the mobile-first workforce management solution empowering hourly workers to trade shifts, manage their schedules, and communicate with their teams. Brett is passionate about improving the lives of hourly workers and leading teams to develop high-quality product design and best-in-class user experiences. He has a deep background in hourly workforce optimization and engagement. Under Brett’s leadership, Shyft raised 6.5 million in a Series A funding round led by Ignition Partners and Madrona Venture Group. Shyft has also received the Gold Honor in Seattle Business Magazine’s 2018 Tech Impact Awards.