CX on your mind? Make sure your frontline employees are on board

One of my favorite shows to attend every year is NRF because it provides such an amazing window into the Next Big Thing(s) in retail. While a few themes stood out to me at this year’s conference—including going back to basics and the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in making smarter decisions—it was very clear that customer experience (CX) is still top of mind for retailers everywhere. Across all aspects of the business, retailers are seeking ways to make sure that the experiences they provide match (or, better yet, exceed) customer expectations.

Here’s the thing about CX: across all the stand-out stories I’ve read I can’t help but notice that the frontline employee is integral to the story. Take Canada Goose’s introduction of in-store Cold Rooms, for example. These rooms give customers the option to try on the brand’s luxury outerwear in temperatures as low as -25 degrees Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit). It’s a stark contrast to the typical winter coat shopping model where customers sweat it out under warm store lights and take their best guess as to whether or not the coat in question is going to keep them warm. Instead, the Cold Room experience is rooted in empathy, giving customers an intimate and immediate understanding of the next-level warmth a Canada Goose coat offers in the coldest of temperatures. It’s an inspired idea that instantly removes the barrier of uncertainty around product performance in the real world. And, as a recent article in Fast Company reports, the employees on the floor play a key role in making the experience amazing. Writer Elizabeth Segran had this to say about the Cold Room experience: “Salespeople at high-end stores are known for being cold and unfriendly, particularly to patrons who don’t look like they are in the market to make a purchase, and the stores themselves are sterile and severe. But with the Cold Room, Canada Goose has created a way for the representatives of the brand to be welcoming and engaging.”

Nobody wants to buy from a disengaged employee

The fact that Segran uses the word “engaging” to describe her Cold Room experience immediately caught my attention. Clearly Canada Goose is doing all the right things to ensure their frontline employees feel invested in making the Cold Room experience enjoyable and sticky for customers. This is critically important because, if their employees weren’t engaged—if they left customers alone to search for the right styles to try on, or couldn’t answer basic questions around coat construction or warranty—then the brand’s best intentions around the experience would fall flat out there on the frontlines. And that would go straight to the bottom line.

In fact, the research shows that 1 in 3 customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for trial and error—retailers have to get the experience right not just the first time, but every time, in order to impress today’s highly empowered consumers and keep them coming back to shop. And that means they need to broaden their focus to include employee experience (EX). With Gallup finding 87% of employees are not engaged at work, it seems there’s no time to waste.

Do you have the “EX factor?”

Here’s some good news. It turns out that small investments can make a big difference when it comes to employee experience. While there’s no single recipe for success, there are four key questions that all retailers should be asking themselves as a starting point:

#1 – Am I making sure my frontline employees have a sense of purpose around the work they are doing every day?

Just because an associate can parrot back your organization’s mission statement, doesn’t mean they are living and breathing it. You want to ensure all employees feel connected to the bigger story of your vision, mission and values. Frequent communications that reinforce why certain things matter and what the employee’s contribution is in bringing them to life in their day-to-day interactions help to reinforce what’s important.

#2 – Are my frontline employees set up for success from day one?

The first touchpoint an employee has with your organization sets the tone for their overall experience. Unfortunately, traditional onboarding is not up to the task of making them feel supported and excited to work for you. That’s because most onboarding firehoses people with information that they quickly forget after the “official” onboarding period ends since the learning is not reinforced. It’s a frustrating experience that contributes to high dissatisfaction and turnover. Instead, onboarding should be highly focused, setting the employee up for success and then keeping the training going while they are actively in their role, so they continue to feel empowered and excited to perform.

#3 – Am I keeping the lines of communication open?

Sharing information through bulletin board notices in the break room or beginning-of-shift scrums leaves room for ignoring, elimination and error. Instead, look for scalable and repeatable ways to share important happenings in the business with everyone in the same way, at the same time. They will appreciate being looped in and it will also help them feel more informed and confident on the job.

#4 – Do my employees feel valued?

Everybody likes being recognized for a job well done. Look for opportunities to formally and informally give kudos to team members. Adding in the opportunity to earn rewards for performance taps the intrinsic motivation to succeed and win. You can also consider ingraining healthy competition into your culture to create a sense of camaraderie that keeps teams challenged and motivated to keep winning.


Now here’s some even better news: you can accomplish all of the above without making investments in multiple systems or expensive training that takes employees off the floor. The Axonify Microlearning Platform gives you the power to engage your employees more deeply through one powerful tool, without pulling them away from the places you need them to perform. It starts them off strong with onboarding focused on the key things they need to know to get started in the role, and then keeps the learning going by feeding them personalized, bite-sized bursts of information delivered in the way humans learn best. It includes broadcast messaging functionality, so you can deliver consistent communications, across your entire frontline (or targeted messages to different subsets), in real time.

And it has user motivation and rewards baked in, to keep them feeling appreciated and eager to come back for more. And all of this happens in just 3-5 minutes a shift, on any device. It’s one platform that helps you keep frontline employees feeling supported and confident that they know the right things to do, in the right moments, to deliver on your brand promises when they are face to face with customers.

If you want to see how this translates into results in the real world, check out this video to see how Festival Foods is leveraging Axonify to engage their employees every day and reinforce their core mission of providing every customer with exceptional value and an enjoyable shopping experience.

Caily is our resident retail whiz with a passion for CX. She’s spent more than a decade partnering with industry leaders to ensure success in strategic planning and omnichannel execution of national programs—so she knows the deal when it comes to the retail industry.

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