When it comes to retail, there’s one aspect of the customer experience that’s substantially more influential than the rest: frontline employees. Because they’re often a customer’s first touchpoint with a retailer and interact with customers directly on a regular basis, frontline employees act as brand ambassadors who can easily make or break the customer’s shopping experience. They have the ability to transform one-time customers into repeat shoppers or to lose a potential sale. For this reason, hiring the right frontline employees is crucial to ensuring a great customer experience. However, recruiting and hiring the right workers is easier said than done.
Hiring tactics are often unique to each store and managers usually are given minimal guidance from corporate headquarters and HR teams, leaving the company’s most valuable assets in the hands of store managers who often lack the experience needed to identify and hire qualified candidates. As a result, recruitment decisions end up being made based on interviews alone and retailers are left with a grab bag of employee expertise and qualifications.
Luckily, the vast improvements that have been made in hiring technology are helping retailers bridge this gap. By replacing manual processes with employee relationship management platforms that streamline and speed up the hiring process, retailers are able to bring on frontline workers capable of turning consumers into brand advocates.
Fixing the frontline
Retailers want a consistent brand image across stores, but this becomes incredibly difficult to achieve when hiring practices between stores are inconsistent. Without the proper training and resources needed to assess qualified candidates, local managers struggle to identify and choose the right workers to man the frontline. And because corporate often is left out of the loop when it comes to recruitment, executives has trouble understanding why some stores perform much worse than others. Until employers give manual recruitment methods the boot, this inconsistency will continue to permeate across stores.
Advancements in technology are alleviating this widespread issue once and for all. Employee management platforms are emerging among retailers to help improve the recruitment process for everyone involved—from managers to corporate headquarters. By standardizing the criteria and process, companies can ensure candidates meet brand guidelines and minimize customer experience inconsistencies across stores.
If there’s one characteristic that’s critical for frontline workers, it’s personality. As the first (and quite possibly, the only) person to interact with all customers, it’s essential for retail workers to be friendly, enthusiastic and patient. Without these skills, companies risk losing shoppers who are turned off by a poor experience. While an employee can learn how to check bags or work a register, soft skills are a critical aspect of the customer experience that cannot be taught.
Unfortunately, soft skills aren’t weighed heavily enough during the recruitment process. Recruiting efforts are typically based off paper applications and word-of mouth referrals, which don’t do justice in demonstrating a worker’s abilities or personality. Given that many job candidates are millennials, chances are they lack an accomplished or extensive resume, resulting in them often being overlooked. However, some of these younger applicants may possess the right set of interpersonal skills needed to be a successful frontline worker. If employers continue to rely on outdated recruitment methods, they could miss out on qualified candidates.
In order to enhance their frontline, retailers will need to move away from traditional recruitment methods and embrace using technology. Digital employee management platforms allow retailers to customize their hiring process and gain a comprehensive look into their applicant pool. By filtering candidates based on their preferences (i.e. availability, geography, etc.), hiring managers can eliminate useless interviews and focus on the candidates that are an actual fit. Managers also have the ability to review a candidate’s past work experience and comments from previous supervisors who use the platform to save time in the long run.
As the retail workforce continues to grow and competition increases, frontline workers will continue to take on an important role. Shifting from manual recruitment methods to digital tools will help employers make fewer hiring errors. By embracing technology in the retail space, retailers can seize the opportunity to optimize their staff and simplify the hiring process in its entirety. The power that frontline employees hold is substantial, but thanks to technology, employers can take back the reins.