Fostering an Effective Customer and Associate Experience During Recovery
As retailers continue to reopen stores, safety of shoppers and store associates is a primary concern. Many consumers are uncertain about how safe it is to shop in retail stores, and many employees fear contracting COVID-19 at work.
Retailers have already crafted plans and implemented strategies to ensure safety and cleanliness concerns are addressed, so that shoppers and associates are safe and comfortable in stores. Reflexis hosted a series of calls with our retail customers to foster information sharing as stores continue to refine their strategies.
Here are 4 questions addressed during these discussions:
1. How do you reassure frontline associates that it is ok to reopen and engage customers?
Many companies are considering BYOD (bring your own device) policies. This includes having employee self-service apps, time clock and company apps on personal devices, keeping associates from sharing devices.
However, when it comes to shared devices like POS Stations, sanitation is a huge concern. Some companies are looking at things like:
- Plexi-glass guards between cashier and customer
- Pause on accepting cash
- Pause on signatures required at POS
- Increased sanitization of POS and customer touch points by frontline team via checklists
Some companies shared that they purchased PPE for associates and are providing new medical benefits, too.
Overall, increasing cleanings to regularly disinfect high touch point areas like shared devices, lifts, escalators, and restrooms is the most popular plan. So is communicating with associates on expectations and why it is important. With intelligent, peer-to-peer communication solutions available to all frontline and management teams, retailers can provide critical information, policies, and procedures to all relevant staff. With retailers concerned about relying on email and concerned about who is actually reading communication (suggestion: Q-Comm), these solutions provide communication tracking and bypass the delay involved with sending messages via email, phone, or fax. They also have the ability to send messages via video; many retailers expressed that video messages from leadership are very well-received. Tracking execution systematically and reviewing reporting on it is key. Additionally, having clear owners and assignments of tasks seems to be most efficient.
2. How does customer interaction change in our new world of social distancing?
Retailers had a great deal to say about how they were managing customers and customer interaction in an era of rapidly changing safety regulations. Some have implemented new procedures about where and when associates can shop in stores, creating one-way entrances/exits and aisles, and allowing a limited number of customers in the store at a time. A few also emphasized the precautions associates were taking as they saw more customer traffic; retailers are providing masks, gloves, and plexi-glass guards, following state requirements for safety and improving upon them, and are assigning floor wardens or safety captains in stores to manage traffic, floor capacity, appointments, and how associates are completing in-store tasks.
Many retailers are heavily focused on what the new associate-to-customer interaction looks like. Here are a number of their findings:
- Talking with customers about what retailers are doing to ensure their safety
- Overhead announcements reminding customers and staff of social distancing every second song
- All digital screens have WHO approved social distancing messaging
- In-store signage advising rules and otherWHO key messaging
- Pointing and gesturing instead of picking things up and handing them to customers
- Associates need to maintain 6-foot distance so the associates are asking the customer if they want assistance. It’s up to the customer whether they want a closer interaction for help to try on shoes, glasses, accessories, etc
- Self-service areas require a lot more cleaning, so don’t be afraid to show the customer you are cleaning it for them in real-time
- Some companies are basing schedules on week-over-week data or having to change from self-serve models now to 100% employee engaged, so their staffing models have completely changed
To accomplish this change, retailers are doing a number of things:
- Explain why these changes are taking place
- Explain what you are doing for the associate so they can better take care of the customer
- Share the good news and get credit for what you are doing. One company representative said they pushed out communication in many ways around crisis-pay raises (direct to employees, social media, press releases, etc.)
- Make life easier for associates by taking this time to cut the fat. Think about what tasks and policies can go away and what really needs to stay in place
- Ask associates what they need and want and then deliver changes they request
3. How are field leaders’ roles going to change?
Field leaders are finding that their work is rapidly evolving to meet the demands of store reopenings during the pandemic. They are less focused on their KPIs and checking reporting and more on how to support the day-to-day. Field leaders are also doing daily calls to keep associates engaged and feeling good about the jobs they are doing.
Visits have become shorter and focused on what do they need, with many using store auditing solutions to easily to maintain consistency and reporting. Store auditing solutions on mobile devices help retailers fix inefficient, ineffective inspection processes and keep stores safe, legal, and compliant. They also ensure that field managers can create precise audit trails and use real-time alerts and notifications to send best practice corrective actions to store associates.
Visual presentations will become more important as customers frequent locations, so reviewing set-ups from video, or a digital portal is preferred as Field Leader travel will be restricted.
4. What are you putting in place now to prepare you for something like this in the future?
A few customers mentioned having a committee of HR, Legal, and Ops personnel who are meeting daily to stay very close to what’s changing and forthcoming. Many are creating policies and plans for the next few weeks and months in the future, should they need it. Some mentioned looking at short- and long-term closure plans. Others are considering that there may be pandemic hotspots around the world they need to close down. “Like how we prepare for hurricane season, we will have a plan in place for quarantine,” said one company representative. Another company shared, “We are going through the agile process of what worked well and what didn’t. We are adapting to local regulations and keep notes of what’s working.” The important take away is to have a plan and to know who you need to have in place to adapt the plan to changing circumstances.
The Reflexis One suite of real-time store operations solutions can help retailers implement new initiatives to adapt to the new normal. Ask your Customer Success Director for more info or email email@example.com.