Disconnects happen in retail. But when it happens in your stores, it feels like a surprise every time. It’s easy for HQ to miss out on essential information from physical stores––especially when your corporate headquarters is housed separately from your brick-and-mortar locations. If you feel like you’re dropping the ball on the communication front, you’re in good company; The cost of inter-organizational miscommunication in the retail biz hit $37 billion last year alone. Fortunately, communication barriers don’t have to be one of the costs of doing business.
The first step to addressing blockages in the flow of information is to pinpoint where they’re happening. So, let’s take a look at the top 5 reasons why you don’t know what’s going on in your stores and talk about ways to fix it.
Reason #1. Schedules Are Created Without an Overview of Staff Members’ Strengths and Weaknesses
The incongruous needs of employees today make it nearly impossible to effectively create schedules on paper by hand. School drop-off and pickup, college class schedules, part-time jobs, and family medical emergencies are just a few of the factors that can interfere with your ability to create an effective schedule that works for everyone under your employ without utilizing technology.
57 percent of retail employees say they still learn of their shifts from paper schedules posted in employee breakrooms! If the department store closures of the past decade have taught us anything, it’s that retailers can’t survive in the new retail landscape by resting on yesterday’s laurels. And trying to juggle multiple employee’s schedules on a piece of paper? It’s time we put that old practice to rest.
You may not realize that your online scheduling tools can also help increase accountability within your retail organization. AI-based scheduling tools can help your business in unexpected ways, such as: discovering which manager is consistently on the floor whenever there are low sales, putting employees who are aesthetically-inclined on the schedule when it’s time to set-up displays or even identifying the cause of shrinkage in one of your stores.
Identifying patterns with AI will give you next-level insights into what’s happening at your physical stores, so you can pinpoint areas with the potential for growth and act accordingly.
Reason #2. Top-Down Reporting Limits Opportunities for Employee Feedback
Did you know that most business owners believe that less than 70 percent of their employees are engaged? What happens to these businesses if a customer comes in when someone from the 30+ percent of disengaged employees is on the clock? To hazard a guess, probably not a great customer service experience that’s going to leave attendees hankering to return to their brick-and-mortar store.
Good employees become disengaged when they don’t trust that management is making the right decisions––which is exactly what happens when HQ or corporate has no way to communicate with employees on the front lines. We’re living the era of call-out culture and technological advancements. Top-down reporting, while effective in the past, doesn’t leave room for the agility necessary to succeed in today’s retail world.
Trust that your employees have valuable information about your business. If you aren’t on the ground floor, it’s easy to miss out on real-world insights such as consumer sentiment about recent initiatives, sales fluctuations, ebbs and flows in store traffic, and more.
The way that you communicate with your employees (and your customers) needs to evolve as your organization scales. A collaborative calendar and instant messaging platform can help you directly communicate with employees from multiple stores. The employees you verify can interface with you directly, so you always know what’s happening on your store floor.
Reason #3. Managers Give Employees Conflicting Directives
Anyone who has worked in a retail store knows the negative impact that this phenomenon can have on employee morale. When your floor manager is giving employees a different directive than your store manager, and your store manager is giving them a different directive than you did in the training video, it’s only a matter of time before even your best employees begin to feel like they just can’t win.
Last year, Gallup discovered that 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement can be correlated to the effectiveness of that employee’s section manager. It’s difficult for employees to escape the effects of ineffective management, and even the most high-caliber management hires can become ineffective when the lines of communication aren’t open.
Conflicting directives create ambivalent employees. But using a single platform for task management across all levels of your administration ensures your floor managers stay on-message and on-task.
Reason #4. There’s Isn’t a Direct Line of Communication Between Consumers and Corporate
Retailers often see interacting with customers as something that is the exclusive domain of hourly employees. But when your sales associates and customer service team are often the only ones who have that firsthand customer interaction, important information can fall through the cracks. You obviously can’t afford to spend all of your time on the sales floor, but there is a lot you can learn about your business by having a direct line of communication with your customers. Much of the information you gather from customers you may not have had access to otherwise, and this information can impact the decisions you make in your store.
An online satisfaction survey is a quick and easy way to interface with customers. You can use it to gain insight into your store operations that you may have been blind to otherwise, such as: which employees went above and beyond their job description, how they feel about your latest inventory choices, how long they had to wait in line before they were helped… even how well your restrooms are maintained throughout the day.
Consider adding a scannable barcode to all of your printed receipts, as well as a direct link to all of your text/email receipts that lead customers to an online satisfaction survey––and be sure to leave room for comments, so your customers feel like they have a voice in your organization.
Reason #5. Organizational Accountability Comes from Consistent Dialogue
It’s frighteningly easy to lose touch with what’s happening in your stores, but the right technology can help you lessen the probability of oversights. Compliant IA is a platform designed for 2-way, trackable communication between head office and brick and mortar locations. You can use it to create open tickets, get real-time reports for task completion, construct action plans for your brick and mortar stores… it even allows you to request photo/signature verification for work completed.
A whopping 92 percent of Compliant IA customers report saving time on store visits after implementing the solution. This cost-effective store execution tool can address all of your organization’s store communication needs. You can rest assured that things in your stores are running like clockwork… no matter where you are, or how little time you have to follow-up on task execution. So you can spend less time managing employees and more time doing the things you love.
Jasmine Glasheen is a retail writer, content marketer, and brand representative. She is a frequent contributor to prominent retail magazines and news sites, tech blogs, and numerous fashion and lifestyle trade shows; she also provides thought leadership on the retail sector for The Robin Report, IBM, Retail Minded, Sourcing Journal, and many more. She’s been a Vend Top 100 Retail Influencer for 2 years running and is her Instagram is listed as one of Vend’s 15 Retail Instagram accounts to follow.