Most retailers implement some form of two-way communication between the stores and head office. Typically these communication channels look like this:
1. Head office needs to communicate some information to all/some stores, in all/some regions in one or more languages (particularly important in officially bilingual countries like Canada and in Europe where retailers often operate in multiple countries). These packets of communication travel “downward” and may be used to announce new company policies, upcoming seasonal programs, new in-store initiatives and even product recalls and planogram changes. Some are “actionable” (require each recipient to complete an action) while others are more of a “for your information only” nature.
2. A store (typically the franchisee, manager or assistant manager) needs to ask a question, raise a concern or document an issue with head office or a specific head-office department. This information travels “upward” and is often actionable as it requires Head Office to acknowledge receipt, take and action and communicate an outcome with the store. This is often accomplished by email or by calling a store support hotline.
These two channels of communication are near universal and yet, are also almost universally implemented poorly: they take longer than they should, they cost more than they should and they often create friction between the stores and head office. Why? Because phone and email communication, while widely accessible, were not designed to handle bi-directional, actionable, traceable and reportable packets.
The solution? A single streamlined process that works in both directions coupled with easy-to-use software that implements this process. For example, your process should permit phone and email communication, not be restricted by and limited to it. Your process should be consistent whether information travels upward or downward, whether a communication packet is actionable or not and whether it concerns one store, one group of stores or all stores.
Two way communication is not only possible, it is easy to implement with the right process and the right software package. If you are reading this and are all too familiar with the pain of implementing two way communication between the stores and head office, now is the time to find something better and try it.