Can retailers afford to have a higher customer service profile?
Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
When launching its digital consumer bank, Goldman Sachs conducted a survey that found consumers want to find answers without assistance, but the ability to immediately demand a qualified banker if they have a problem.
“There’s high tolerance for self-service until it fails, and then there’s no tolerance,” according to a Bloomberg article, which details how branches are giving raises to tellers despite the arrival of ever-advanced self-service options.
Many retailers are likewise seeking ways to better manage labor, their most “controllable expense” in the store, amid margin pressures while recognizing employees should be at the very center of strategies to reinvigorate stores.
So, the question isn’t, “Do store employees still matter” but, “How can retailers afford a higher customer service profile?”
First of all, non-selling functions of the store should be hyper-optimized. That’s what task management solutions are all about, but technology-enabled collaboration and communication tools are also important for floor resets and other regular non-sellling tasks. With store managers often bogged down by paper work, enabling mobile alerts for managers about real-time operational conditions in the store can be particularly beneficial.
Secondly, new customer-facing functions related to omnichannel fulfillment should be proactively systemized. Technology solutions are available to optimize the extra labor required to handle BOPIS and online returns at the store level.
Finally, selling functions can be measured and optimized. Observing employee activities with their outcomes can identify those that work best. From there, a continuous improvement cycle can be established at each store, where an action plan is generated to support the achievement of the goals. Then, as the saying goes, “Wash, rinse, repeat.”
Stores don’t have to settle for a diminishing return on their efforts to win consumers’ share-of-pocket. Retailers should re-think what goes on inside the four walls of the store in the context of consumer expectations for relevance and service and use information and tools available now to drive performance to new levels. Employees do matter to consumers, but only if they are helping those consumers solve their lifestyle challenges.
- In The Digital Age, Do Store Employees Still Matter? – RSR Research
- Why Banks Are Giving Tellers Raises, Instead of Firing Them All – Bloomberg
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How can stores drive in-store labor efficiencies and create more opportunities for customer-facing functions? Where do you see the biggest opportunities at the store level?