Why smart schedules increase productivity and sales? Today, high competitiveness and a growing proliferation of e-commerce have forced retailers to reinvent their strategies to compete and survive. Traditional methods of competing through assortment and pricing are ineffective against online retailers, who outperform physical retailers in these issues.
Then, what can the physical store offer to customers that e-commerce cannot? A unique shopping experience based on excellent employee customer service.
As we have seen in previous articles, customer-facing employees are the most important asset of physical retailers and one of their distinguishing values with respect to e-commerce. But many retailers still see employees as an expense, rather than an advantage in differentiating themselves from online retailers and providing memorable customer service. Thus, when it comes to prioritizing, they always put the customer first. Forgetting that employees are the only ones able to influence the customer’s purchasing decision and get their commitment to the store. Then, focusing on employee engagement will be the key to increasing conversion rate and customer loyalty.
There are 4 important points:
In the retail sector, due to its particularities such as store opening and closing times, and variable workloads throughout the day, hourly employees give more importance to the work environment, schedules and workloads.
Not surprisingly, one of the biggest concerns of this type of employee is work shifts, as they vary widely over weeks and months. This makes it difficult to reconcile work and personal life.
Knowing work schedules well in advance, having the option of communicating preferences, being able to change shifts with other colleagues and requesting days off easily, are some of the things that these employees value most.
Realizing the reality of employee retail schedules, Harvard Business Review conducted an experiment at 3 American GAP stores.
For 8 months, the employees of these stores were working part-time, changing their schedules every day and every week, having only three days notice of the following week’s schedule.
After this period, GAP changed the system over the next 8 months: employees had more stable schedules, knew their work schedules at least 2 weeks in advance, and could exchange shifts with colleagues.
The results were amazing. After the change, the sales of these 3 stores increased by 7%, and productivity increased by 5%. Which in figures means that GAP earned almost $3 million as a result of better planning.
They also noted that this increase in sales was not due to increased store traffic, but increased the conversion rate and the value of customer shopping baskets due to good customer service.
Achieving intelligent scheduling that takes into account all existing variables and that seeks to achieve a engaged team and high business performance is a complicated task. Besides, doing this work by hand through spreadsheets is inaccurate and sometimes unfeasible.
Currently, staff planning tools are appearing in stores that thanks to Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Analytics are able to generate intelligent schedules. Schedules created for each employee taking into account their profile, skills and preferences, and adapting them to the potential and needs of the store. Thus achieving 5 main objectives: increase employee satisfaction, increase customer satisfaction, increase sales, control labor cost and increase visibility of business performance.
These systems provide real-time information and access from anywhere. They allow staff to access their schedules through their mobile devices, request preferences for shifts and free time, change hours with colleagues, and so on. Managers can easily manage and control the workforce and dedicate their time to more important tasks.