Front-line staff performance has a heavy impact on customer perception, but retailers aren't using one of their most powerful tools, customer data, to help educate frontline staff and improve their performance.
For many brick-and-mortar retailers, frontline staff play a major role in influencing the customer’s experience. As you might imagine, frontline staff performance has a significant impact on customer perception; a recent global report from LoyaltyOne, “CX Intention vs. Impact: Making Sense of the Ever-Evolving Retail Shopper Journey,” found that employee interactions are the most important factor in customer purchase decisions. Yet despite this importance, retailers aren’t leveraging one of their most abundant resources, customer data, to help educate frontline staff and improve their performance. According to the report, only 34 percent of retailers surveyed strongly agree that their company is using customer insights to train and educate their staff.
Retailers collect mountains of data relating to customer in-store experiences. So why aren’t they leveraging it to help frontline staff do a better job when face-to-face with consumers? The simple answer is that they might not know where to start. The days of training manuals and “employee of the month” posters are long gone. Understanding what data to leverage with frontline staff and, more importantly, how to use that data, is not an easy task.
The rise of big data has coincided with a wave of technologies designed for backroom and logistics functions that are slowly finding new purposes in-store. These technologies, like handheld devices, voice-directed tasking and labor-optimization applications, are a fantastic counterpart to retailers’ customer data. The data determines what changes will have the most impact on customers, and the technology provides the mechanisms for retail employees to execute in real time.
When used in tandem, data and technology can efficiently take action on insights surfaced from customer data that can increase employee productivity and improve the customer experience within a retail store. Over the next five years, there will be significant developments in how data and technology impact the way retailers manage and train frontline staff. Here are a few methods to consider for implementing data into your management practices now.
Offer real-time tasks and monitor for incremental improvements.
There’s been much discussion on how automation could replace frontline staff; however, we are still a few years away from that. Today, technology can be used as a powerful tool to augment your staff, not replace them. Develop and introduce an employee app that gives frontline staff real-time challenges that solve customer pain points. Additionally, the app could collect employee performance data based on how efficiently they complete the challenges. When you know the amount of time it takes to restock items, when products are misplaced, and the questions, requests or feedback customers are providing, you can understand how your CX initiatives are really doing, and you can set realistic goals for things like retention and cost to serve. What works? What doesn’t? How can you address customer feedback quickly and definitively?
Your data might indicate that organizing the produce section every two hours improves the customer experience. Use that employee app to remind and incentivize your staff to stay on top of that schedule.
Empower employees with useful education.
Frontline staff are your voice in the store; shouldn’t they be aware of how your customers feel about the brand? Use the data you collect on CX and brand perception to create and conduct regular employee training courses designed to keep staff informed on what customers want and show employees how to deliver an improved experience in the store. Technology like online portals and employee apps allow you to keep staff up-to-date and knowledgeable on a daily or even hourly basis.
Retail employees have the same expectations for digitization, gamification and rewards that their customers have, and some savvy retailers, especially in high-service models like quick service restaurants (QSR), are leading the charge. You’re offering your customers rewards in exchange for loyalty and favorable behaviors, so why not offer this to employees? Start by analyzing customer data to determine what tasks are most important for shoppers, then leverage technology to entice frontline staff to do them more often or more efficiently. If data shows that a more mobile staff leads to happier customers, use your employee app to track the staff’s steps during a shift and give rewards to the most active team members each day or week. Providing your frontline staff rewards for positive customer feedback, improved speed of checkout or meeting productivity goals will help improve morale, increase the quality of customer service and boost your bottom line.
Retailers are already sitting on mountains of data about their customers’ in-store experiences. If you’re truly invested in improving your customers’ shopping experience, it’s time to put that data to work to empower and improve your frontline staff. It’s easier said than done, but the results are worth the effort and investment.