Effective communication is one of the pillars of a well-managed retail organization. Open communication builds trust between managers and employees and creates a better store environment. Not only that, but team members need honest feedback from their leaders to be able to do their jobs well and execute retail programs properly.
As such, improving store communication should be a priority for those in leadership positions — particularly district managers and store managers. It’s important to evaluate your methods and ensure that you’re communicating with each employee in the best way possible. You also need to set up the right systems and processes for delivering information and tracking feedback. This keeps everyone on the same page at all times.
If you’re a retail district or store manager looking to level up your communication game, this post is for you. Check out these 5 tips and see how you can apply them to your business.
1. Listen to your subordinates
This tip applies to both retail store managers and district managers. Part of being a creating effective communication lies in addressing each team member’s specific concerns or situation. You won’t be able to do this effectively if you don’t listen to your team. That’s why before delivering a speech or offering feedback, make it a point to hear your employee out.
“Retail managers can do more listening,” says Daniel Robbins, a former district manager and now the CMO of OC Facial Center. “I see many leaders who, when coaching their teams, do more talking without actually listening.”
He continues, “when you listen, you find opportunity, you hear their concerns and the reasons why they feel they cannot succeed.”
Being a good listener also makes your team more receptive to what you have to say. This is particularly true if you’re delivering corrective feedback.
“The less people felt their managers listened to them, the more likely they were to believe that their managers were not being honest and straightforward.” – Harvard Business Review
In other words, if your subordinates feel that you’re not listening to them, they are less likely to trust you.
Additionally, HBR’s research found that while people are generally open to receiving constructive criticism, they are “significantly less interested” in hearing corrective feedback if their managers didn’t listen to their point of view.
The takeaway? Effective communication means listening before you speak. Hear out your team members, and only when you understand where they’re coming from should you offer your input.
2. Encourage two-way communication
Whether you’re managing a single shop or a group of stores, it’s essential to communicate in such a way that you create a platform for back-and-forth dialogue. You want team members to feel that they can contribute to the discussion — and ultimately to the success of your retail campaigns.
A big pitfall to avoid, says Jeffrey P. McNulty, author of The Ultimate Retail Manual, is to communicate “with a ‘my way or the highway’ mentality.” You don’t want to foster an environment that belittles or dismisses ideas that aren’t in line with your views, he adds.
Meaghan Brophy, Senior Retail Analyst at Fit Small Business, offers similar advice and recommends that managers (district managers, in particular) encourage two-way communication between themselves and their store teams.
According to Brophy, one of the biggest mistakes she’s seen district managers make is when they “push out planograms, sales quotas, and marketing materials without having back and forth conversations with store managers to discuss strategy and execution.”
Effective communication Eliminates one-way communication
There’s a lot of value in telling people how to run a store — especially when it comes to executing brand guidelines and safety measures. Just make sure to do it in a way that doesn’t alienate your team. Instead, you want employees to feel that they’re being heard. (As mentioned above, failing to listen is detrimental to manager-employee relationships and the business as a whole.)
Having a “one-way” communication approach also leads to you missing out on ideas that could potentially improve your campaigns. Managers may have the benefit of seeing things at a higher level. However, your in-store employees have the on-the-ground experience that can be invaluable when executing campaigns at a local level.
3. Tailor your approach to each individual
“It is vitally important for managers to communicate to their employees in a way that is compelling and motivating to each person based on their individual preferences,” says Cecily Sweet, JD, MBA, Retail Business Consultant at Talent Plus, Inc.
“A one-size-fits-all approach is increasingly unproductive with today’s workforce. Managers should consider or, better yet, ask their employees which motivators drive their performance.”
The best way to determine the right communication approach is to ask your employees. Talk to them about their learning styles. Also, figure out their top motivators and drivers.
One thing to avoid, according to Sweet, is only using your preferred method for coaching and communication.
“Just because it feels right to the manager, does not mean it is best for the employee. Considering the types of discussions they have on a day-to-day basis, managers should consider which communication strategy works best for each employee to better predict the response to and after the communication from the manager,” she recommends.
4. Conduct in-store visits
While there’s a lot of value in modern communication tools, no amount of technology can replace real, face-to-face communication. That’s why it’s critical for district and store managers to schedule in-store visits a few times a year.
As Carlos Castelán, Managing Director of The Navio Group puts it, “going to visit stores in-person allows leaders to gather qualitative feedback on how to better support regional and store leaders that will, in turn, enable store employees to better serve customers.”
He adds, “showing up in-person on a semi-regular basis builds stronger relationships as well as the fact that it allows for more informal conversations (which is where the most honest or insightful comments come from!)”
Castelán shares an example of when they conducted in-store visits with one of their retail clients. On one occasion, they had lunch with the regional manager and a key employee, and the meeting resulted in tremendous insights and increased rapport between the two parties.
“Beyond identifying areas for how we could better support the field team, we walked away with valuable information in terms of what customers were seeking to better expand some of the new service offerings to other stores,” he says.
It’s not just about gathering intel, though. As Brophy points out, in-person meetings build trust and help ensure that your programs and campaigns are executed well.
Visits cultivate relationships
And relationships are key for effective communication. “Make in-person visits a priority,” she advises. “Taking time to create a relationship with each store manager is important for building trust. This trust helps district managers ensure store managers are following guidelines, and store managers can trust that district managers have their best interests in mind.”
Brophy adds that in-store visits allow district managers to better understand the unique aspects of different stores. “No two locations are the same,” she stresses.
As such, taking the time to check out different locations allows you to tune in with the nuances of each store. This enables you to come up with compelling programs that are tailored to every location.
5. Use the right communication tools
Managers need to be in touch with their stores at all times. So be sure to arm yourself with communication tools that support your needs in retail. Ideally, your platform should enable you to:
Communicate instantly with your team. Retail is a fast-paced environment. You need a system that can keep up. Instant messaging is a handy functionality that lets you touch base with your team quickly.
Share rich media such as photos and videos. Visuals are essential. Particularly when it comes to executing in-store programs. If a promotion needs to be displayed in a certain way, you’ll be more efficient when you show people how it’s done instead of telling them what to do.
Simplify and manage your communications from one place. Using multiple channels (email, SMS, chat, etc.) will result in information slipping through cracks. Additionally, team members may fail to get messages. Avoid all that by using a single platform for all your messages, follow-ups, and action items. Not only does it simplify the communication process, but it makes it easier for everyone to search for messages, which makes retrieving information a breeze.
Need a solution that can accomplish all of the above? Compliant IA has a robust platform that paves the way for effective communication between teams. Features such as instant messaging, collaborative calendars, and action plans ensure that managers and employees stay on the same page and campaigns or action steps are done on schedule.
The final word: level up your retail communication skills and processes
Communication has always been a vital part of retail success, and it will continue to be an important component, as the retail world becomes even more fast-paced and competitive. Sharpening your communication skills and adopting the right tools will ensure that you and your team don’t get left behind.
About the author:
Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.