The Webhelp team will be attending the Retail Week Live event in London on March 7th and 8th. A panel session on the opening day titled ‘Where retail staff love to work’ and featuring brands such as Ikea and Oliver Bonas really caught my eye because it focuses directly retail employees.
Employee engagement is critical in retail, just as it is in the wider customer service environment, but according to the 2017 Gallup Global Workplace survey many companies just pay lip service to ensuring their employees are happy at work. The research found that 87% of organisations say that employee engagement is one of their top priorities yet just 15% of employees report that they are actually engaged in the workplace.
How can these figures be so disconnected when executives say this is a priority? In many cases, it is because companies are not connecting what their people do with the processes and technologies they use. Automation is a good example. On the surface some automation programmes promise to reduce costs and reduce customer effort – it must be a good thing. However, if your customers no longer talk to your employees then that can reduce the opportunities to really engage and raise service levels from adequate to excellent.
The Harvard Business Review recently published research on this topic, identifying several specific parts of the customer service process that should never be automated because doing so reduces the quality of the customer experience. HBR cited Domino’s pizza as a good example of a company that is using technology to streamline operations, but at the same time increasing the bond between the brand and the customer. For example, their pizza tracker system allows customers to order a pizza without engaging with a human, however the app allows the customer to directly engage with the person making, cooking, and delivering their pizza. It’s created automation in one area of the relationship and yet the connection is stronger elsewhere.
In retail and customer service generally, employee engagement is critical. Companies cannot just pay lip service to this in their annual report and not actually engage with their team. The difference between a frontline retail employee who is just punching the clock and counting down the minutes and one who enjoys helping customers is enough for a brand to be actively losing customers with each engagement.
However, care should be taken. A recent feature in Forbes magazine outlines how some managers approach employee engagement by surveying the team and formulating an action plan. It often takes six months just to analyse the survey and then even longer to create an action plan. You can’t spend a year thinking about how your employees should be engaged with their employer and customers – they will be gone. This has to be a cultural shift, ensuring that your team is engaged because they like what they are doing.
I’m looking forward to continuing this discussion on employee engagement at Retail Week Live. If you plan to be there then please say hello to the Webhelp team and if you have any thoughts on this subject then please leave a comment here, or get in touch on LinkedIn.