May 15, 2016

Communication White Noise Is Killing Your Stores’ Profitability

Throughout the service industry, there’s an excess of “noise” that plagues internal associate communication and, ultimately, customer service. Hourly workers and their managers currently communicate through a patchwork of paper forms, in-person meetings, texts, phone calls, Facebook posts and more, creating a hectic system prone to errors and inconsistencies.

Facing intense market competition, compounded by rising employee wages and turnover rates, retailers and other service industry employers must find new ways to reduce costs – and inefficient communication is a prime target.

Though often overlooked in favor of loss prevention or recruiting, fragmented in-store communication contributes to major cost centers including staff attrition, inconsistent scheduling, compliance costs and unnecessary managerial spend. By swapping piecemeal protocol for integrated communication technology solutions, employers can improve their in-store experience for workers, supervisors and customers alike.

Bring Front Line Employees into the Loop

Today, slow, bureaucratic business processes define the front line associate work experience. Hourly workers lack a standardized communication system; many don’t have the benefit of corporate email addresses. Consequently, information filters down through bulletin boards, messages in the POS and store meetings, and employees must rely on cumbersome methods for basic needs such as time-off requests, shift swaps and performance feedback.

This is where communication starts to break down. For instance, our 2015 study found that 43 percent of hourly workers share their shift availability with managers through written requests; 31 percent do so via in-person conversations, and 11 percent use email. When scheduling becomes this clunky, the shifts that managers assign are more likely to be incompatible with employees’ needs. This, in turn, detracts from staff morale and repels skilled talent – fueling turnover.

By adopting a central communication platform that hourly workers have access to, organizations could encourage more direct in-store collaboration and eliminate complexity from critical processes. Streamlined communication can also help employers embrace more flexible scheduling methods.

Avoid Managerial Overtime

Trading chaotic communication processes for a consolidated digital system is a boon for supervisors too.

Managers frequently pay the price for inefficient store interactions, which force them to spend additional hours rectifying schedules, resolving disputes, rearranging shifts and distributing updates from the corporate office. Overtime payroll expenses already put a strain on margins, but could become a harder pill to swallow if the federal government’s proposed overtime expansion, which incorporates managers, goes into full effect.

With technology that instantly unites store leaders with staff, managers can minimize the hours they spend each week on scheduling, training and other back-office responsibilities. By saving time on the administrative end, managers are free to tackle more revenue-generating tasks like sales and team development.

Plenty of service industry organizations have mastered internal communication at the corporate level, and even between head offices and store leadership. Now is the time for employers to extend the same standards and tools to the sales floor. Making a concerted effort to bridge the long-standing communication divide between store leadership and hourly employees isn’t simply about cutting costs and boosting revenues. It’s also about making organizations a pleasure, rather than a pain, to work for.

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