Future of Retail — Customer Engagement

issue 05

Too few retail multiples have effective, two-way communication flows between HQ and stores.

Unfortunately, the research, and store feedback, tells us otherwise. Too few retail multiples have effective, two-way communication flows between HQ and stores. With cost pressures rising, stores are challenged to deliver more, with less. Yet high staff turnover means many staff lack experience/knowledge of processes and procedures, and aren’t delivering optimal productivity, so operational efficiency, and effectiveness suffers. It must be noted that the demands on stores are

huge. They are not only expected to be fully compliant to the latest promotional campaign or VM instruction, but managers also must deal with staff training, HR matters, health & safety, and other tasks that tie them up in the office when they can add far more value on the shop floor, coaching their staff, and being available to customers. With so much to remember, it’s no wonder that activities get forgotten – but if those activities happen to be critical H&S checks, the risk to the business if an incident occurred could be catastrophic. Store teams anecdotally report feeling isolated,

unsupported, and constantly under pressure. Managers comment that even when they try to raise issues with head office they can often be passed around departments until they get to speak to someone who can help them. Even when action is promised, they find themselves chasing up and wasting time on calls/email exchanges, to confirm when to expect resolution. So, it’s hardly surprising that employee engagement

is low… and how can disengaged, pressured, employees be expected to deliver a great customer experience? The simple fact is, they can’t. The consistent service delivery, mentioned above, that

leads to customer trust and loyalty, depends on consistent standards being defined and communicated with store staff in an easy-to-use, accessible way. With retailers under increasing financial pressure, a drive to reduce operational costs could further impact on service delivery if effort is not invested in two-way communications, clarification of expected standards, increased efficiency, and more intelligent allocation of resources. That’s where real-time, actionable insight comes in – knowing where help is needed, and to support ongoing

continuous improvement to processes, eliminating wasted time and effort, or removing bottlenecks and barriers. Decision makers need quality information – structured, and interrogatable. Today, feedback from retail operations can be a mix of phone calls, emails, messenger tools (such as WhatsApp), face-to-face conversations, and even old-fashioned paper – and these communications are probably all completed to different standards. With this backdrop, in January 2016 I accepted an

invitation to launch Mobaro Retail in the UK. I saw a genuinely relevant, simple, effective solution to support retailers in overcoming many barriers they face today – two-way communications between stores and HQ, delivering consistent operational standards, better allocation of resources, less wasted time and effort, etc. – I hope, by reducing stress and uncertainty at stores, it will also help to improve employee engagement. To sum up, I sincerely believe that if retailers care about customer experience they will:

1. Give better support to stores – providing information, guidance, and two-way communications, ensuring stores get the help they need. HQ or field teams must be accountable for delivering that support, remembering that customer experience is everyone’s job.

2. Enable better decision making – provide HQ and field teams with real-time, actionable insight, supporting quality decisions, ensuring the right inputs to achieve the desired outcome.

3. Champion continuous improvement – provide all employees with the opportunity to identify inefficiency, and to collaborate to improve processes. Eliminating wasted time and effort, cutting costs, removing barriers to delivering a great service experience, reducing the stress and frustration of uncertainty.

The bottom line? Based on the research, there’s £1.3

billion of increased profit up for grabs for those retailers who invest in reducing staff turnover and increasing employee engagement... That’s got to be worth investing in!

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