WFM — The Gateway To Great Customer Service
By Bob Johns, associate editor
I recently had the pleasure of speaking at Workforce Insights’ Retail WFM 2012 in San Diego, where we discussed all of the changes going on in retail from mobility to RFID. Obviously this was a conference that focused on workforce management (WFM), but what really surprised me was how the major retailers that attended were focusing on WFM as part of the customer experience.
Most people think of WFM as a way of staffing the store, ensuring tasks are completed, and keeping associates happy with their schedules. As retailers renew focus on the customer experience, WFM has assumed a new role vital to the growth of retail. As we all know, some associates are great advocates for your brand, while others may not be quite up to standard. With managers completely swamped, WFM has become more automated to save time. However, many managers continue to hand-schedule or revise the automated schedules completely, creating even more work for them.
The latest WFM solutions can alleviate this inefficiency by rating the associates according to skill levels with every task in their repertoire. If you have an associate that is great at moving out stock, but maybe has less than stellar communication skills, they can have a high rating for stocking tasks and a lower rating for customer service. The system will automatically schedule this person for the tasks best suited to their skillset. This gets the right associates in front of the customers, while it helping managers identify weaknesses and training opportunities to improve the staff.
Mobility also is playing a huge part in the new WFM era. Not only can retailers have associates using mobile devices to engage with the customer, look up inventory, and even perform check-out duties, but now the device can be used for WFM. We all know how much everyone loves resets, but what if, rather than carrying around some huge binder full of pages that get ripped out and lost, the associate had a tablet with the store layout, shelf-by-shelf product positioning, and pictures of the final layout? Imagine how much quicker and easier it would be for that associate to complete the reset. And, if the associate has to pause to help a customer, as they should, it would be just a tap here or there to get to a product screen to answer the customer’s question.
All of the task instructions can be included with the documentation for easy reference, and the associate can mark the task completed when finished. He/she can even take a photo of the completed reset to send to the store manager or district manager (DM) for verification. Having managed in retail in the past, I know how many times a task has been marked completed by an associate or manager, but when the DM shows up and performs a spot-check, nothing has been finished. Requiring that a photo be sent from the store manager for verification ensures compliance.
Additionally, these devices can be used for other items besides task management, such as portable time clocks and tracking. The associate can log in or out from anywhere on the floor, rather than crowding around one place to all clock-in at the same time. This helps get your people on the floor where they belong, which is where the tracking comes into play. Managers can track the movement of the devices, and thereby the associates, to see if the associate is staying on task. If you see four or five devices crowded together, more than likely the associates are not out helping customers or completing tasks. This may sound a little like “big brother,” but labor is tight, and retailers need to make sure the associates stay on task.