Guest Column | October 22, 2019

4 Ways To Engage Employees And Improve Customer Experience This Holiday Shopping Season

By Brett Patrontasch, Shyft

Forecasts Predict Growth In Sales This Holiday Shopping Season

The holiday shopping season is retail’s biggest time of the year. Shopping deals now start even earlier than Black Friday, triggering several months of both in-store and online shopping. Retailers and their frontline employees are meanwhile working hard to provide consistent customer service.

Even with the rise of online shopping, brick-and-mortar stores continue to play a critical role in the overall retail experience. Store employees are retailers’ frontline for customer service and engagement. And, as interest in Buy Online Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) orders continues to grow, in-store staff is key for fulfilling those orders efficiently.

During the holiday season, retailers will want to ensure they’re effectively engaging their workforce. Employee engagement helps boost morale, which increases productivity, and motivates staff to provide better customer service. This helps ensure customers have the best possible experience during this critical sales period.

Here are four strategic tips to engage your workforce this holiday season.

Tip 1: Strengthen Top-Down Communications

When employees are working long shifts, a word of encouragement from a senior leader can go a long way. Employers can send a positive comment thanking employees for their hard work or celebrate a team or division’s accomplishment. Messages like this help employees feel their hard work is being recognized and that they are appreciated.

Of course, top-down communication can be a challenge for organizations. Hourly employees often do not have a company email address, so high-level information is distributed through managers. However, it can be hard to ensure all managers are conveying the message if they are without the right technology to do so.

Communication preferences are also quickly changing among today’s workers. Millennial and Gen Z workers are digital natives who spend hours every day on their smartphones. This shapes their communication preferences. A message handed down from corporate through their manager may not feel as significant as a message sent directly through the technology they have at their fingertips.

Companies have an opportunity to communicate with their frontline employees by leveraging new mobile technology. This allows brands to engage teams in their mission and goals and inspire a more productive holiday season.

Tip 2: Improve Team Communication

When employees are working hard through the holidays, knowing their team has their back can make all the difference. If, for instance, a coworker thanks them for their hard work, they’re more likely to feel good about their role on the team and their relationship with the company.  

To promote healthy team communication, employers will want to encourage managers to create a strong culture of appreciation. Managers can start by setting an example for their team by making it a habit to recognize teams and individual team members.

In working with retail departments, our team has seen managers frequently share kudos, commemorate anniversaries, and celebrate achievements. Comments such as these strongly resonate with their teams. When an employee receives a shout out for going above and beyond, it may inspire their coworkers to do the same.

When team morale is up, employees feel better about their work and are more motivated to do an excellent job. If your store employees are happy, your customers are likely to feel happier as well.

Tip 3: Support Nimble Staffing In Stores

Staffing needs can change quickly during the holidays. Spikes in store traffic, a delayed shipment, or inclement weather can increase or decrease the number of associates needed in the store.

To ensure consistent service, employers will want to find ways to empower managers to adjust the number of scheduled staff quickly. If they need to bring in more team members, managers may not always have time to call through the roster to find available - and eligible - employees. As a result, the store may be understaffed at critical times.

In working with retailers, our team has seen a pressing need for real-time, bulk shift distribution. If store managers are able to broadcast available shifts quickly, at scale, and to qualified employees, it improves coverage.

When it comes to optimizing scheduling, time is a key factor for retailers to consider. It’s crucial that processes are designed to be flexible to the ever-changing nature of a retail store environment.

Tip 4: Streamline Administrative Processes

It’s important to remember that employees are also holiday consumers. They have family events, shopping lists, and social obligations that could conflict with their work schedule. This means associates may be required to find coverage for their shifts. To do this, employees have traditionally resorted to texting, calling, or contacting team members on social media.

Finding a substitute for their shift can take a significant amount of time that they don’t have during this busy time of year. This can lead them to call-out at the last minute. Their manager is then likely on the hook to find a substitute. The manager may spend an hour or more on the phone in the back office instead of leading on the sales floor. And, if they can’t find someone to cover, the store will be short-staffed.

If retailers streamline this process for employees, they can improve sales floor coverage and help support consistent customer service. At the same time, they’ll also be able to remove much of the administrative burden from managers and associates, freeing them up to focus on other priorities in the store.

Conclusion: Bring Holiday Cheer For Your Employees

Find ways to support your employees - and help them do their job efficiently - and you’ll have a happy, productive workforce. This won’t go unnoticed by customers, who will have better in-store interactions with associates. After all, your frontline is your best resource for inspiring customer loyalty.

The holidays are the perfect opportunity to reconnect with existing customers and attract new customers. Make sure your frontline is making a lasting impression.

About The Author

Brett Patrontasch is CEO and cofounder of Shyft, the mobile-first workforce management solution empowering hourly workers to trade shifts, manage their schedules, and communicate with their teams. Brett is passionate about improving the lives of hourly workers and leading teams to develop high-quality product design and best-in-class user experiences. He has a deep background in hourly workforce optimization and engagement. Under Brett’s leadership, Shyft raised 6.5 million in a Series A funding round led by Ignition Partners and Madrona Venture Group. Shyft also has received the Gold Honor in Seattle Business Magazine’s 2018 Tech Impact Awards.