The increasing diversity of in-store activity, from click and collect to personal shopping, self-service tills to kiosks, is changing the way retailers operate.  While stores may have adequate staff numbers, ensuring the right staff are in the right place at the right time to support this new retail model is challenging. How can retailers optimise staff numbers to ensure an excellent customer experience when there are so many different touch points to manage?

Managing Change

Efficient retail operations increasingly adopt a fluid approach to store associate activity, reallocating individuals on the fly in response to evolving needs – from responding to specific customer questions to restocking shelves, fulfilling a click and collect order or operating the check-outs. With this approach, managers can optimise staff numbers and minimise unproductive time, doing more with less.

The challenge for traditional retailers, however, is twofold: determining how to overcome any resistance from employees used to working within one specific area throughout a shift and a way to rapidly and efficiently communicate with employees throughout the day to ensure they are at the right place at the right time.

Certainly the limitations of traditional communication methods are well known – from the intrusive and dated nature of tannoy announcements to costly telephone contracts and inefficient pagers. One alternative that is gaining increasing market presence is the use of lightweight wireless headsets to enable staff and managers to communicate immediately across the store.

Store Associate Experience

Using a single digital channel, the headsets ensure all staff are continually on message – unlike pagers or telephone systems that need to be answered.  As a result, managers can efficiently reallocate store associates to specific areas as required – opening check-outs, restocking shelves, and so on. In addition, staff can also communicate with each – asking questions of product specialists to immediately answer a customer query, for example, or quickly getting someone on the shop floor to fulfil a two for one offer for a customer already at the check-out. The immediate and shared communication enables store associates to work together as a team to improve overall efficiency and productivity.

Improving communication can have a direct impact on the overall staff experience – and one that plays an important role in reducing store associate churn.  In those stores that run a skeleton late night staff or are at risk of opportunist  thefts, the ability to be in constant communication with every other store associate is a major asset and one that can play an important role in engaging staff into this way of working.  In addition retailers can also use the headsets to undertake individual staff training, avoiding the need for out-of- hours group training sessions, and getting new recruits onto the shop floor sooner.

Indeed, the majority of store associates perceive headset based communication as an enabler – not only keeping them safe but also facilitating more efficient ways of working and faster customer response.

Conclusion

In a changing retail model, store associates have an essential role to play in enabling a good customer experience across every touch point, from seamless click and collect to answering complex product questions. Enabling store managers to optimise staff resources in real time, from anywhere in the store, helps to improve productivity and efficiency; but it is the way in which store associates respond to the ability to communicate immediately and work together as a team that can support the increasingly dynamic and multi-role in-store operations.

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