Staff-Centric leads to customer-centric business

Engaged staff is your best loyalty scheme
In recent years, retail organisations have been focusing a great deal of effort on ensuring the business is omnichannel friendly. Silos at the head office are broken down, technology is introduced to the shop floor, and it is paramount that the customer is recognised on every channel. We’re doing everything in our power to be as customer-centric as possible!

It’s old news that your business should always be built around the customer, but one of the most important assets in the store - and outside it as well - can hardly be described as technological. This asset is, of course, your staff. It’s the staff that truly makes the difference between a pure player and a shop. Because, let’s be honest, a retail store is little more than an online store, except that you have the product physically in front of you. So it’s the staff inside the store that can offer customers the added service they seek, in whatever size or shape it is provided.

This service, which is offered by the staff, ensures customers have a pleasant store experience, it creates customer loyalty and can contribute to higher sales. 87% of consumers who say they have received excellent service in the store also indicate they are therefore prepared to spend 5% more. This excellent service is best achieved through the staff, provided they are engaged and are given the opportunity and resources to offer excellent service, or in other words, to be empowered.

The staff is essential in achieving good returns, but the head office is rarely really in touch with what goes on in the hearts and minds of the staff on the shop floor. Surveys by Gallup show that almost half of the companies have no clue whether or not the staff feels any engagement towards the brand or the customer. That same survey also reveals that, on a global scale, 13% of personnel feel ‘engaged’. In western countries this percentage is about 30%, which still leaves 70% of unengaged staff. If these figures don’t lead to a wake-up call for retailers, the consequences of these figures surely will! An engaged employee, on average, calls in sick 1.25 days a month, while a disengaged employee is sick 2.13 days a month. That’s almost double!

Furthermore, a staff member who feels engaged improves customer retention by 18%, making the employee a very effective loyalty system!

The numbers don’t lie and change is urgent, but it isn’t easy for retail organisations to simply change their ways and become staff centric. In fact, the past decade has seen a focus on reducing the employee costs, resulting in frozen wages and more effective work methods, preferably in fewer working hours. We see it clearly in supermarkets, where the shelves are now restocked during shopping hours – the shoppers

having to manoeuvre through the aisles past fully stacked carts – by young personnel with little product knowledge. This is an entirely opposite direction than that of the shoppers, who are becoming much better informed and expect (demand even) a higher level from knowledge from every member of staff. As a 16-year-old part-time employee, it’s not easy when you’re asked a question about gelatine leaves and you’ve never used them before in your life, let alone know what they are. To solve these kinds of day-to-day problems, investing in the infrastructure that concerns itself with personnel needs to take priority.

Besides organising up-to-date training courses and sales programmes, a target focus should be on the communication towards the personnel. How can we ensure the communication becomes more relevant and how can it contribute to more engagement?

What’s more, empowering the staff is vitally important. This means adjusting the protocols to provide better service for the customer. One method, for instance, is by allowing staff to have smartphones or similar devices in the store. There are limitations, of course, which should be agreed beforehand, but it does mean that the staff is given a certain level of freedom to be more customer centric.

The challenge now is to get organisations to think and work with staff-centricity at the core!

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