Customer centric scheduling is crafted for employees, for the benefit of customers. It’s a typical model to see adopted in retail especially, and other customer-facing roles. At first glance, it might seem like a great idea. But what about the implications and long-lasting effects on employees? 

Find out everything you need to know about these work schedules, and how it can impact all parties involved. How will you take this model and adapt it for the best-case employee experience?

What is customer centric scheduling?

Customer-facing job roles in focus for customer centric scheduling

We are all well-aware that great customer experience comes alongside great employee experience. When the employees are all on board and showing up to work with a customer centric mindset, this goal is easily attainable. Putting the customers at the core of your working models is a great way to ensure a fantastic customer experience. 

These are the processes and reasons behind building customer centric scheduling. Employees are crucial for good customer service and experience. This model utilises them to their potential and places them at the focus of the customer guided business.

Customer centric scheduling means, essentially, to craft work shifts built around the needs of the business. 88% of retailers have said there is opportunity to improve profitability through better utilisation of in-store employee work hours. This comes alongside the fact that 80% of consumers said their shopping experience is improved when staff are on hand and eager to help. 

Customer centric scheduling works on the following for each employee to serve the whole team and business outcome:

  • Scheduling in how many weekends or consecutive days off you’re allowed to take
  • Scheduling in how many consecutive days you can work 
  • Minimum amount of time between end of shift and start of the next. For example, in the UK, this amount is 11 hours minimum
  • Minimum and maximum amount of hours allowed to work in one shift

In theory, these all seem like simple actions to figure out and use to build a shift rota for your employees. 

Let’s take the example of a customer-facing role – a high street retail store. By doing customer centric scheduling, you are assessing your foot traffic in store, and analysing your busiest and quietest times. Where there is a busier period, you can put in more employees at one time. When you have a busy period of the year coming up, say at Christmas, you can rota in your best-working, fastest employees to work at least 5 days in a row if you wanted. 

And the end goal of doing this? To make sure your customers are always assisted by your best employees. This only gives them the best experiences, confirms their retention and completes their purchases. It’s a win all around, right? Well, let’s evaluate this from the employee perspective.

Looking from the individual employees’ perspective 

In this make-shift example of a high street retail store, imagine the model of customer centric scheduling has come into action. The employees are greeted by 5 days of consecutive working days. Each of these shifts vary in length, becoming disorienting and tiring. They can range from being 6 hours long one day (so they’re unable to take a break), and 10 hours the next. 

On Tuesday, they’re finishing work at 7pm, and are back in at 6am the next day. It also doesn’t look like they have a weekend free from work for a long time. This isn’t even taking into account any overtime taken on.

The inconsistency of these weekly hours on an individual basis is making employees feel drained and directionless. They’re unable to plan ahead for time away from work. Schedules are unpredictable, and their work-life balance is severely impaired. As a result, your employees are unhappy, and morale is low. When your employees feel like this, how can they be on their best performance?

This is when we circle back round to our shared awareness that good customer experience follows on from good employee experience. With customer centric scheduling, sure, there are more employees on hand to offer customer service and maintain the running of the business. You’re never struggling to run the store and your revenue is better than ever. But how long will that last when your employee experience is not up to scratch? 

The Lowe’s case study 

American retail company Lowe’s have given direct feedback to the effects of the customer centric scheduling model. According to a Lowe’s representative, they rolled out “a new scheduling model that aligns associate shifts with store-specific customer demand patterns by time of day, day of week, and department”.

tired and burnt out employee from excessive working

This case of the scheduling model by Lowe’s gives great insights into how it can truly leave an impact in reality. On top of real examples of some of the scenarios previously mentioned, Lowe’s also experienced rota coverage over a shorter period. To add to the work-life imbalance and lack of preparation for personal activities, employees were only made aware of their schedules two weeks in advance. 

Along with this, over time they saw an increase in the weeks where they were assigned non-consecutive days off. So this presents an issue on the flip side of the coin – employees not given as many hours as others. This leads to feelings of lack of self-belief, and feeling unmotivated. Not to mention the hits that can take to wages. 

To those that worked the multiple long shifts in a row, however, they were burnt out and exhausted. An employee in Florida shared that by the time someone is into their second week of non-stop work days, they start to make mistakes. These are often simple mistakes that are only made due to exhaustion and being unable to concentrate properly. 

If customer centric scheduling only works in theory, then how can we maintain a customer centric workplace?

Once again, let’s circle back. If we know that customer experience is based on employee experience, and customer centric scheduling is not great for EX, then this will not work. Instead, enact other practices that focus on employee wellbeing. Check in with your members of staff to see how they are coping with the workload and if they need help.

To directly tackle the issues of customer centric scheduling, you could create a new rota system that works for your employees. Ask them which days and hours suit them best most of the time, and work your schedule around that. In line with this, try and create as close to a permanent work rota as you can so employees know what to expect week-by-week. 

A further answer to this may even lie in AI & digital solutions. Not only will utilising technology take the pressure off your employees and their working hours, but customer requests can decrease over time. Everyone will be satisfied with the benefits of non-human intervention to stand in and assist.

The bottom line – your employees should be comfortable and in a good mindset to provide great service in customer-facing roles. Put them as the priority and great customer experiences should follow. 

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