A thriving retail environment is dependent on good customer service. Unsurprisingly, customer service boils down to the interactions between customers and employees.
By Lori Mitchell-Keller, SAP Global General Manager of Consumer Industries
Retail directly and indirectly supports 42 million jobs, provides $1.6 trillion in labor income, and contributes $2.6 trillion annually to U.S. GDP, according to a study from National Retail Federation (NRF). Retailers expect a return on investment on these jobs, which means the process of recruiting talent and motivating and training staff is crucial to encouraging a positive and thriving retail experience. Creating the right digital experience for employees—from the moment they become a prospect—will greatly impact the overall process in a positive way.
Today’s retail workforce is more global and diverse than ever. This creates an enormous opportunity for retailers that are able to cultivate the skills and ideas of employees with a broad range of backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. As we all know, winning over the best talent isn’t always easy, but there are a couple of measures HR can take to help the process along.
- Craft a digital experience for prospects
Creating a positive digital experience targeted toward prospects will help to win over new hires. If a candidate’s experience with a company is inundated with antiquated, paper-based processes or slow response times, he or she is less likely to feel a positive connection with that employer. Today’s world is very much a digital one—especially in retail—so it’s important to show that your company incorporates prospects’ tech-savvy attitudes. In fact, a survey from NRF revealed that nearly 39% of young adults say that learning a new or innovative technology is an experience and skill they want to obtain at their first job.
- Eliminate (unintentional) bias in recruiting practices
Diversity in the workforce is a business and economic imperative, with research clearly showing better financial returns and improved employee engagement for companies with diverse workforces. A recent Leaders 2020 study conducted by SAP and Oxford Economics shows that Digital Winners* know that workforce diversity pays off, reporting a 36% greater likelihood of recognizing the impact of workforce diversity on the bottom line.
Bias in business undermines employee commitment, performance, and retention, and it unconsciously creeps its way into the hiring process. Machine learning–based sentiment analysis of job descriptions, something SAP incorporated into its SuccessFactors Recruiting Management solution, identifies potentially biased language in job descriptions and recommends alternative language to ensure the descriptions are gender-neutral. To drive home the importance of eliminating bias, the NRF survey also found that 25.3% of 18- to 24-year-olds say companies whose mission and values match their own is important to them when considering a future employer.
Training isn’t something you should toss at employees on their first day—nor should it be a stack of papers for them to read through. It’s an evolving, ever-present process that needs to continue throughout the employee experience. Retail employees should be well-informed of product or messaging updates as they happen so that when a customer asks about a product, they can provide a knowledgeable response. Implementing omnichannel strategies can help keep employees informed, allowing them to react to new products in a timelier manner.
SAP’s customer ULTA has used technology to keep pace with its rapid store growth and increasing number of associates. ULTA’s omnichannel strategy and underlying technology ensures both customers and associates are accessing and utilizing the same set of information at any point. From product discovery to education to testing and purchase to social sharing and feedback, ULTA is simplifying and facilitating the process. As a result, ULTA’s employees are well-informed with the right information—or can look it up in an instant—and are provided the tools necessary to do their best work.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at motivating employees with technology and creating a thriving experience for customers.
*Digital Winners: Oxford Economics identified a set of characteristics and practices that define the best-managed companies, calling this group of high performers Digital Winners. The analysis is built on the assessments of individual executives who rated the skills and strategies of management across their organizations. In short, Digital Winners are companies with executives who are better prepared for the digital economy.
Lori Mitchell-Keller is Global General Manager of Consumer Industries at SAP. In this role, she leads the Retail, Wholesale Distribution, Consumer Products, and Life Sciences Industries with a strong focus on helping SAP customers transform their business and derive value while getting closer to their customers. Mitchell-Keller brings over 25 years of experience in the software and consumer goods industries, including more than fifteen years as an executive driving business strategy while building strong and sustainable relationships with customers, partners, financial analysts and industry experts.