Suppose for a moment that you decide to start your workday off by checking on workers at a local branch of the retail chain you currently manage. You drive to the location, park, and walk through the sliding doors of a big box place. Following a trickle of customers out running morning errands, you stroll through the departments leading up to the customer service station.
When you reach the desk, what do you see?
Maybe you spy a long line of customers waiting to be served. Or a frantic understaffed team of associates trying to help everyone at once.
While the scene options vary, there is perhaps a deeper question we should be asking. It is: at a customer service desk in today’s retail world, what should you see?
This inquiry raises additional observations and action steps that can be considered in a changing landscape. With so much technology and automated solutions available, it’s prime time to evaluate when and where associates are needed. Furthermore, if employees shift to different locations, standards and protocols that can be measured and monitored need to be established correctly for optimal performance.
The pandemic shuttered retail doors and sent workers home—where many preferred to stay, even as the new normal set in. According to the 2021 Remote Work & Compensation Pulse Survey, 48% of employees expressed a preference to be fully remote, while 44% opted for hybrid working arrangements.
It’s not just employees who are looking for more flexibility and choices. Consumers are often just as content to buy products via Internet than to walk into a store. Shoppers make 37% of their purchases online every month, according to data from Square.
While work-from-home strategies are becoming more feasible with technology, the best remote arrangements don’t magically appear. It’s not as simple as shifting in-person meetings to online video conferences, or having associates log in from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on a computer if they aren’t in the store during those hours. The barriers can pile up, especially when it comes to maintaining communication channels and meeting goals. Among leaders, 85% note that the switch to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive, per Microsoft research.
To fully open the doors to remote possibilities, without sacrificing quality and results, it may be helpful to bring in a third party. A consultant, for instance, can often bring a fresh point of view. The expert can observe processes, and then offer suggestions for ways to engage with employees—regardless of where they are.
Outside help may also provide a set of recommendations for monitoring performance. Asking questions regarding what needs to be measured can serve as a starting point. The answers will guide the next steps. Processes can be set up to enable communication, check-ins, and proper reporting.
Change often evokes fear: employees worry about the expectations and environment; executives fret over finances as different systems are implemented. The reality, however, is a new world creates nearly endless opportunities. And that includes revenue streams.
Circling back to the customer service example, what if instead of a busy counter at a retail shop we saw a buzz of activity online? What if associates interacted with customers via video connections? Now imagine if some customers, when given an option of paying a fee to receive prioritized help, decided the charge was worthwhile.
Indeed, the new normal presents profitable possibilities—for retailers with an open, creative, and innovative mindset.
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As a founding member and CEO of OSF Digital, Gerry has more than 15 years of experience managing start-ups and medium-size IT businesses and driving them to peak performance. With background in Enterprise Applications, IT Services and Consultancy, Gerry's impressive client and business portfolio sets him in the new breed for global entrepreneurship.