Boosting the motivation of a retailer’s most valuable asset: their shopfront workforce

BY Australian Retailers Association
16 March 2019

Every retail business knows the value of their shopfront workforce. The relationships they build with customers not only impact individual sales, but also create the foundation of a brand’s overall reputation and growth.

Sitting at the front line of interactions with customers, retail workers are inherently linked to a brand’s overall value proposition, reputation and growth. The relationships they build with customers not only impact on individual sales, but good employees engage with customers in an authentic way, and act as brand ambassadors in and outside the store.

A few decades ago many large retailers exercised a product-first business model, with customer service nothing more than providing a place for physical purchase. Fast-forward to today and that paradigm has been flipped on its head. Retail now demands a customer-led strategy, as consumers seek meaningful experiences with brands. And therefore, the relationship between the customer and retail worker has arguably become as important as the product being sold.

Customer satisfaction jumped by 33% after a positive experience with retail staff according to InMoment’s 2017 Retail Trends Report. Results are most profound for fashion retailers, who see upwards of 70% greater customer satisfaction when their shopping experience is enhanced by good customer service. Customers who have memorable experiences, are also much more likely to come back - and retailers can bank on that.

Keeping retail staff engaged and motivated can however be a challenge for many retailers. Quantum Workplace’s 2017 Employee Engagement Trends report suggests that more than one third of retail employees surveyed feel disengaged. This is concerning as engaged retail employees showed an average 24% lower staff turnover, a 20% increase in sales – and 10% higher customer metrics.

So, how can retailers create a more engaged in-store workforce? Here are my four simple tips:

1. Set the scene for excellence

Picture any retail store and the bulky counter takes centre stage – but does it really need to? Your employees are often entombed behind these monuments - physically disengaging them from customers and arguably the business. This becomes critical when you consider that a retail employee’s success relies upon his or her approachability.

Pronto Software works with many retailers around Australia on their in-store technologies and we find the most successful operators are embracing fresh store designs, reducing counter sizes and removing the physical barriers – additionally, it also increases valuable floor-space for product display.

2. Arm your front line staff with the right digital tools

Have you ever tried to work on a task without the right tools? It’s frustrating for you and whomever is waiting on you. As customers get used to the speed of online shopping, their in-store demands are increasing and their patience with long queues and poor service is decreasing. As your front-line retail staff can often receive the full brunt of a customer’s wrath, this can be highly demotivating to them – ultimately becoming a cause for them to leave your business.

Retail employees need to respond to customer queries about stocked items and availability, quickly and accurately. Tools such as point-of-sale (POS) apps on mobile devices like an iPad or iPhone can assist greatly. With all the information they need in their hands, there’s no need to disappear into storage cupboards, hurriedly scurrying for particular items or leaving the customer to make a call to other stores.

With the increasing success of pop-up stores increase, a POS app available on an iPad means your staff are ready to take the shop to where your customers are!

Such empowerment through access to information boosts the confidence of retail workers – making them more engaged. Should the customer wish to purchase the item, order stock to be home delivered, or even lookup their purchase history, the worker is empowered to complete the transaction and offer the best service he or she can.

3. User-friendly systems that never let you down

Complex systems that are hard to use and require extensive training, can lead to staff avoiding them as much as possible, which in turn impacts on their customer service and sales results. A POS system that is based on a familiar, highly intuitive interface allows you to have new staff trained quickly. This means you have the support you need to respond to unexpectedly high demand – reducing the stress on existing team members and improving your business outcomes.

Trust in the capability of your in-store systems is also critical, particularly if it has the ability to operate offline. An in-store network or internet drop out has a devastating impact on a retailer’s sales – but it also puts staff in front of a firing squad of angry customers.

4. Tracking against goals to boost everyday performance

Many retailers offer incentive programs based on individual employee and store sales results. These are most successful when retailers offer POS systems that empower retail workers with real-time information about performance and results. Of course, engagement can be bolstered further when retailers recognise and reward success regularly.

Seamless access to such critical business data also empowers retail staff to work more strategically in-store, and make smart decisions. For instance, real-time insights into sales trends, not only allows for tracking against goals but also understanding of stock challenges and opportunities.

Just as you spend time and effort planning a customer journey in order to engage buyers, you must have a cohesive employee journey to keep employee engagement high. Human interaction is the clear differentiator between an e-commerce and physical store operation, and so in this people-led retail environment, there’s great opportunity for retail workers to carve the future of a brand’s success. Consider what resources and tools you have to empower your employees and help them better serve your customers.

Les Bruzzaniti is the Retail and CRM Product Manager at Pronto Software. Pronto Software (Pronto) is an Australian developer of award-winning business management software. With in-built intelligence, flexibility and an easy-to-use interface, its flagship product, Pronto Xi, delivers rich business insights – helping organisations optimise and grow their operations. Learn more at pronto.net

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Australian Retailers Association

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As the retail industry’s peak representative body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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