Modern retailers put a lot of time and money into improving the customer experience, both online and in the store. They're investing in cloud solutions that enable personalized messaging, geotargeting, and real-time interactions across channels. It's exciting, but with so much focus on external communications, it's easy to push internal communication challenges to the back burner. That's a big mistake.
Internal communication affects not only employee retention and team productivity, but the customer experience. After all, if front-line retail workers are uninformed or unengaged, customer service suffers. This is true in most industries, but retail has some unique challenges that unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) can help to address.
Below are five common problems that retailers can solve with UCaaS:
1. Internal Communication Challenges: Geographically-Dispersed Teams
As both rising and established retailers work to expand geographically, the need for streamlined, consistent communications becomes more pressing. Most store associates aren't in the same town as corporate decision-makers, let alone the same building. They usually rely on store managers for information about upcoming sales, campaign changes, HR policy changes, and other important company news.
Yet, outside of infrequent staff meetings, employees are rarely in the store at the same time. That means management often has to rely on bulletin boards and word-of-mouth. Store associates rarely have work email addresses, and even if they do, they're probably not checking it often when they're on the floor. Without a more reliable system, it's easy for employees to be out of the loop. This is frustrating for both them and their customers, whose questions they can't properly answer.
With UCaaS, retail leaders and store managers can pass along information and answer questions in whatever format works best for the team, whether it's via instant message, group SMS, video, or voice conference. Employees don't need a desk or computer to access the content. All they need is a mobile device and a login. Even better, administrators can push alerts for particularly important or time-sensitive information.
2. Hypermobile Workers
Speaking of deskless employees, mobile solutions are key for retail workers who are always on the go, helping customers find items, stocking shelves, and ringing up purchases. Of course, retailers also need people manning the phones for calls from customers or other store locations.
Many stores already provide associates with mobile devices to access inventory from the floor. When UCaaS is enabled on those tablets, store associates can make and receive customer calls from anywhere in the store. They can also stay connected to their co-workers no matter where they are.
For example, say a customer wants an item that's not in stock. The store associate sees that it's available at another store down the road but, knowing that inventory isn't always accurate, wants to make sure it's really there before sending the customer on a wild goose chase. She could walk back to the help desk to look up the phone number, call the other store, wait on hold for the right department, and wait for someone to go look for the item. But with UCaaS, she could simply initiate a video chat or instant message with an associate in the right department at the right store. Since that associate also has his mobile device in hand, he can quickly answer the question. This reduces stress for the employees and wait time for the customer.
Shoring up internal communication challenges helps decrease employee frustration. When they're always in the loop, they'll feel like part of a team rather than another cog in the wheel.
3. Ever-Shifting Schedules
Retail isn't a 9-to-5 job. Part-time employees are in and out, and even full-time employees and managers often work different days and shifts each week. Creating schedules is challenging enough for supervisors, and communicating those schedules to the team can be even harder — especially when someone calls out or needs time off.
When the schedule is posted in the break room, there's a good chance employees will take note of when they work, and won't look at it again. That means supervisors have to notify everyone affected by any schedule changes. With UCaaS, that's easy to do. Whether supervisors need to inform staff of schedule changes or cover impromptu shortages during flu season, they can reach everyone at once in real time.
4. Lack of Time for Training and Career Development
Retail work is fast-paced. Stores are often short-staffed, and customer needs always come first. For new store employees, training often lasts only a few days before they're on their own. If they make it, store managers rarely have the time to mentor them or provide career development opportunities. With teams so dispersed and working different shifts, it's hard to hold professional development events or bring in guest speakers.
That can all change with video and voice conferencing, which help bridge those gaps and enable employees from different locations to attend virtual events. Because these meetings can be recorded, people who can't attend can watch later. These materials can also be archived and used to train new hires in the future.
5. High Turnover
The retail industry has a notoriously high turnover rate — about 65 percent among hourly employees in 2016, according to the Hay Group. That's problematic, considering it costs about $3,328 to replace every $10/hour worker.
Shoring up internal communication challenges helps decrease employee frustration. When they're always in the loop, they'll feel like part of a team rather than another cog in the wheel. They have the tools they need to do their jobs well, and they learn what they need to know to keep improving their performance and career prospects. Most employess simply want to feel valued at work. And when they're happy, they care far more about keeping customers happy.
Learn more about how to shore up internal communication gaps with UCaaS and other cloud communications retail solutions.