Why customer confidence starts with empowered employees
There’s no doubt it takes strength, focus and vision to balance lessons learned with future opportunities on the horizon. For New Zealand-based hardware, homeware and sporting goods retailer Briscoe Group, that meant getting laser-focused on the employee experience in order to properly take care of customers as their expectations evolved.
During the AxoniCom RETAIL session “From de-escalations to delivering delight: the role of the associate in driving conversions,” moderator and retail technology consultant Miya Knights chatted with Aston Moss, Briscoe Group’s General Manager of Human Resources, about the company’s employee experience strategy. Their lively conversation explored how Briscoe Group’s response to shifting customer needs in the past two years started with unwavering support for employees and how this allowed for agility in the face of change.
Committing to communication and connection
As the first lockdown began in 2020, Moss said that leaders at Briscoe Group quickly realized transparent, tech-enabled communications with their employees was crucially important.
“We used Axonify as a tool to stay in touch with our team and communicate key messages. That’s been probably our greatest success out of all of this—and we had some significant learnings by doing that,” said Moss.
To ensure a human connection during a time of enforced isolation, company leaders shared recorded updates—ranging from just-checking-in messages to reiterating the organization’s commitment to its employees’ personal and financial wellbeing.
Briscoe Group’s communication efforts continued even as safety measures were relaxed and associates started to return to the selling floor because as Moss pointedly asked, “How can you expect your employees to do a good job of caring for your customers if they don’t feel cared for by you as their employer?”
“The things that had changed for our customers were a sense of nervousness and wanting to have confidence in their choices. So, we were making sure that our team was well trained to keep our products looking good and that all of our safety protocols were in place.”
The in-store experience had shifted dramatically and Briscoe Group, like many companies, was operating on a hybrid model that included fulfilling online orders, from delivery to click-and-collect, and serving customers in a new brick-and-mortar experience. But some things stayed the same and making sure employees were poised to deliver delight was at the core.
“Our customers still want three things from us: they want to feel welcome when they come in and shop in our stores, they want to be able to find the product that they came in to purchase and they want to be able to purchase that item and get on their way with whatever else they had planned for their day. And perhaps the most important of all of those is making them feel welcome when they come into the stores. That part of the experience is delivered uniquely by our team,” Moss emphasized.
Working smarter, not harder
As our own research has shown, companies can’t compete on wages alone—it’s a battle that can’t be won. Your real competitive edge is your employees. Knowing this, Briscoe Group had already started investing in technologies and processes before the pandemic hit. To say it came in handy, especially as the struggle for talent continues, is an understatement.
“You don’t just want to work everyone harder. Employees are stressed enough already. What you want to do is make it easier for the work to get done,” said Moss. “We’ve rolled out various technology initiatives, which have enabled our team to do more, essentially with less. They’ve just needed to work differently. And again, that’s where Axonify has played a big role because it’s been key in the deployment of the learning that’s been part of rolling out each of those different technologies.”
No more guesswork
For Briscoe Group, being able to evaluate the ROI on its efforts to improve employee and customer experiences has helped dictate future investments.
“The richness of the platform dashboards has been phenomenally useful,” Moss noted. “You do want a breadth of measures to ensure that any initiatives that you put into place are going to resonate, they’re going to have the intended impact and that they’re largely going to be sustained. Because those are often the key challenges: Have you made a difference? Has it been positive, and can it stay that way?”
Successful associate training often correlates with higher customer satisfaction and when customer feedback indicates a challenge, targeted training modules can be developed to focus on coaching opportunities. Call it the circle of retail life.
“Whenever we roll out new initiatives, we’re able to go back and look at how well the training was received and the overall effect on our business,” Moss said.
The right tools make all the difference
Moss revealed that his biggest piece of advice is that businesses need to think holistically. From the head office to point-of-sale, every team has to be in alignment—backed by measurable processes and scalable technology.
“When you’ve got a hammer, everything can be a nail. But, of course, sometimes you’re using screws and you need screwdrivers,” he said.
“We have continued to do that across the business. But we have also looked at ways in which we can harness our investments and repurpose them in different ways to maximize value. Because when we do this well, we do a great job for our team—who, in turn, do a great job for our customers.”
In the end, converting shoppers to paying customers is about more than employees who know how to process the order without issue. Delivering an exceptional experience at every touch point—from the warehouse, contact center, sales floor or somewhere digital—takes time and an investment by the entire company, with every team working together for the benefit of the customers.
P.S. For more deep-dives into the no-fluff topics shaping the retail industry, check out more sessions from AxoniCom RETAIL on demand.