While retailers welcome the uplift in revenue that comes with Black Friday, for staff – especially in-store staff – the experience is often far less welcome. Prioritising activity can be tough for store associates during a normal sales day, but juggling product questions, click and collect fulfilment and store deliveries is a walk in the park compared to the potential bedlam that can occur on Black Friday.

The challenge for retailers is not just managing the sheer volume of customers and the high levels of sales transactions but ensuring the right staff are in the right place at the right time. Tom Downes, CEO, Quail Digital, explains the importance of excellent in-store communication to maximise sales and minimise stress on Black Friday.

Black dread

Vast numbers of hyped-up customers; long check-out queues; shelves requiring constant tidying and restocking; plus, the ever-present risk of theft and damage – Black Friday is hardly a store associate’s dream day. And yet this is a key day in the retail year – one on which a retailer can massively boost revenue if the customer experience is right.

For the customer, Black Friday is all about speed. It is about finding the right products at the right price, making the purchase and moving on to the next store. And that creates a challenge for store staff – is the priority minimising the check-out queues or restocking shelves? Managing security or ensuring experts are on hand to answer customer questions?

While staff can clearly handle many aspects of the day to day activity, when it gets tough – and it doesn’t get much tougher than Black Friday – prioritisation must be the role of the store manager. This is not a day for the store manager to be locked away in a back office. A store manager needs to be on hand, actively checking check-out queues, spotting problems with bag handling and or issues with security tags. Managers need to be on the shop floor – and they need to be in constant communication with staff.

Connected store

Achieving that communication, however, is not straightforward. A dated tannoy system is certainly not a solution – in the Black Friday frenzy, this is just one more source of noise and annoyance for customers and staff alike. Similarly, telephones or walkie talkies which demand staff actually interrupt current activity to answer are hardly a viable solution! The alternative is an integrated wireless headset system which uses a single channel to ensure all members of staff are in permanent communication, allowing the manager to direct operations and taking the prioritisation burden away from staff.

In addition to enabling the store manager to be on the shop floor continuously, the single channel also means all staff are permanently tuned in – but in the background, minimising impact on current tasks but enabling immediate response as and when required by the manager or colleagues. Should a problem arise in the Black Friday scrum – from attempted theft to customers fighting over the last heavily reduced TV – staff are able to respond immediately.

Critically, on this most challenging of in-store days, continuous but unobtrusive communication enables store managers to optimise staff resources in real time, from anywhere in the store. Reallocating staff on the fly in response to the actual in-store situation takes the pressure off staff, improves efficiency and delivers a better customer experience – all of which will be key to maximising the Black Friday sales opportunity.

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