The IssueHoliday is here, and while you wrestle with keeping things running smoothly, there’s one reality we know you’re struggling with: your store staff. Call it the Great Resignation or not, but the fact is that retail has been handed a bad rap. Yes, retail employees are on the front lines and yes, it’s their job to be attentive, knowledgeable and pleasant. But man, it’s not easy. Inventory is down, prices are through the roof, wages aren’t great and a lot of people aren’t that fired up about working in general. On top of it, there’s a rash of seriously crappy behavior happening out there, and your store staff are the ones having to deal with it.
Fact is, you can’t control what’s happening in the world…but you CAN control what’s happening in your store! The trick is to figure out how to get great people and keep them.
As small or mid-tier retailers, providing a killer customer experience is as important as your inventory selection—in fact, it’s your edge. People tend to love small businesses because they care more./i>..certainly more than the big behemoths. Associates are the main contributor to this caring situation, and the customer experience they provide is the key. Research shows that people often come into the physical store specifically to interact with a live human, and if that interaction leaves them cold, they’re out the door–sometimes for good.
To fix any issue, however, you first have to get to the heart of the problem. This starts by taking a compassionate view and asking yourself what are the biggest drivers at play?
We know that money can’t be the solution here, but you can address the other stuff quite quickly..
The good news is that, with technology, you can give your staff the tools to successfully service customers–the good, the bad and the flat out boorish–while sparking them up to do it with a happy attitude.
Tech tools can be used to replace mundane operational tasks while enabling staff to better serve, motivate them to lean in with gusto and/or reward them for doing it. The BHAGs they serve fall into the following three buckets.
Give them the data at their fingertips to answer the questions your customers expect them to know. Customer history, both on-line and in store, gives them the power to provide great service based on real-time info. What do they like? Who do they buy for? How often do they buy? What adjacent items make sense to offer?
Real time inventory availability across all channels ensures no out-of-stock offers. Help them get customers what they want, when they want it. Do you have my size? If not, does a nearby store have it? Does your warehouse have it and can you ship it to me by tomorrow morning?
Up-to-date systems should have a real time, multi-channel, 360-view of your customers. If your associates can’t answer customer questions and fulfill their wants and desires, why are they there in the first place?
Can you set sales goals in your system? Can you track both individual, team, and store level goals? Do your dashboards then show (in real time) how they are achieving against their goals? Can stores and regions compete against each other over a holiday weekend in real time? This is what makes the job fun while also motivating staff to up sell, cross-sell, and achieve team goals that raise all sales levels.
Technology should be used for more impactful training and tracking. It’s more relevant, makes it more fun, and helps them process a customer engagement faster–while also proving if they are upselling and cross selling via personalization.
With the right platform, you can track everything each employee does and automate rewards with both expected and surprise incentives. You can quickly translate what motivated staff to turn their efforts into cold hard cash. The immediacy of the reward after a competition is paramount to pump up the excitement surrounding a contest. It nurtures a real sense of challenge and excitement and make them want to stick around for more–and thrive. Iron sharpens iron, right? And who knows…the good ones might even recruit their friends to come work for you too!
To turn on the staff solutions above, here’s the foundational investments buckets that may make sense for you.
Tips From the Trenches
Having been at this ever-changing employee game for decades, we’ve gathered some good insights that can make things go smoother.
√ Use good strategy to make the tech experiences more human, not less.
Technology is not supposed to replace associates OR make the customer work harder…it’s supposed to make store experiences <better by getting questions answered quicker, offering suggestions likely to be loved and making every engagement personally relevant. Done right, it removes the friction points and enhances the personal interactions.
√ Make opt-in easy for shoppers!
Shoppers don’t want to feel like they are being forced to give up private information or do the work for the staff…you want to make them feel comfortable ‘opting in’ to sharing details about their preferences and/or using self-serve technologies by making them super simple. For example, QR codes can be used to fill out their loyalty info on their phones and automatically update your system with their current info and opt in.
√ Connect the customer data dots to make the experience as personal as possible
No two customers are alike, and now, thanks to the web, they are accustomed to information and recommendations that are specifically geared towards their personal tastes. With the right retail platform, this info is a cinch to get into the hands of your staff–which helps them to quickly get your customers what they came in for.
√ Offer upsell/cross sell options based on previous path points and preferences
The fantastic part about an integrated platform is that it offers ‘one clear view’ on all points of your customer’s journey. With it, any associate can see exactly where a customer left off and close the deal with contextual suggestions, regardless of place or platform.
√ Gamify it!
There’s a reason people like to play games–our brains get hooked on the endorphins released from the competition AND the win! Same strategy works with both customers and employees. Whether it’s training or motivating, gaming can make it fun.
√ Give staff a voice…and TAKE ACTION
The younger generation cares as much about having a valuable influence on their place of employment as they do about pay. Talk to them, listen to their feedback and do something with it! they will reward you in an infinite amount of ways.
Why Is This Worth Your Time?
People like to do business with people that they like…and people like to work for people that they like. When you genuinely care about your employees and do what you can to make them feel valued, rewarded and heard, they will most often reward you back with their loyalty. When they are loyal, it reduces their desire to do you dirty…and it increases your ability to ensure that they create great experiences for your customers. It’s a big circular solution, and it’s how our industry used to go at it in the old days!
All Point can take tech and apply it to real world challenges. However, we don’t care about technology…we care about the solutions. If you’re interested in ‘turning on’ any of these ideas and want to know the best-in-class options to make them happen, give us a holler!