I love shopping. But holiday shopping? Well, that’s an entirely different beast. From the parking to cash-out lines, it’s an emotional rollercoaster that I’m sure many of you have experienced.
The emotional retail rollercoaster
Last year’s rollercoaster started with an last-minute addition to my three-year-old daughter’s wish list—which just happened to be 2017’s must-have toy.
With high hopes, I sped off to a local store that (according to my online search) had 7 of the season’s hottest toy in-stock. My hopes were dashed when an indifferent associate told me the item was sold out. I jumped back on my phone and found that the item was available in another one of their locations, and asked the associate if I could order it from that store. Dismissively, the associate said he didn’t think they did inter-store transfers, and then vanished without confirming this point. Left to fend for myself, I resumed my mobile search. I won’t lie, there was a brief moment of panic (this thing was out of stock everywhere!!!), which was replaced with cautious optimism when I discovered a different brand nearby had 1 left in stock (or did they?). I reserved the item online (not entirely confident that it would actually be in stock when I get there to pick it up). But, thanks to the store’s accurate real-time inventory system and efficient reserve-and-pickup policy, it was there waiting for me! I left the store triumphant and content with the additional items I had expertly been incented to buy.
Needless to say, this overall customer experience (CX) landed one retailer on my naughty list, the other on my nice list, and put CX at the top of my wish list.
CX will make or break the holidays
For many, retailers making it onto the nice list is easier said than done. Delivering good CX on the best of days can be hard. The holidays only amplify this challenge.
During the holidays, your workforce is made up of a mix of full-time, part-time and seasonal employees with varying levels of knowledge and experience. Regardless of status, all of your associates need to keep up with seasonal product stories, fluctuating inventory levels, constantly changing prices, promotions, and merchandising. That’s a lot of information coming all at once. It’s hard for even the most seasoned associates to remember everything, let alone a temporary employee who’s being onboarded. To top it off, your associates have to deal with extremely high volumes of customers—customers who, quite frankly, don’t know or care how long that associate has been around and want the right answers—fast.
To add to the challenge, customers no longer see the distinction between digital and physical channels They see one brand. And that brand should offer a seamless, consistent experience from channel to channel. Which means, if a customer is in your store after seeing your mobile site had 7 of an item in stock, your associate should be able to walk that customer over to those 7 items, neatly merchandised on a shelf, and direct them to cash out.
Everything you do—from accurately managing inventory levels to offering differentiated products and services to creating an enjoyable shopping environment—needs to be part of the same cohesive experience, because that’s what customers expect. And their expectations are constantly growing. This is forcing retailers to reimagine physical shopping to deliver the one thing customers want: superior customer experiences. In fact, customers value CX more than product, service, or even price. 90% of customers will leave a company because of a poor experience—they’re even willing to pay more for better experiences. But, with the holiday season representing as much as 30% of annual sales for retailers, you can’t afford to lose customers to bad CX.
Numbers like these clearly demonstrate that CX doesn’t just make or break a sale; it can make or break your year.
For this reason, many retailers are implementing new technologies, new partnerships and even changing their assortment to compete with online retailers and help personalize the customer experience. But with all of this investment you can’t forget to invest in the people who engage with the customers in your stores everyday. Retail associates play a critical role in CX transformation and bringing your brand promises to life. You can adopt all the latest technologies and offer new and improved products and services, but if your associates aren’t up to speed and aligned with these promises, your efforts will fall flat.
Wrapping up great CX starts with your associates
For many retailers keeping associates up to speed on what’s happening can be a challenge. The pace of business paired with a widely dispersed and often disconnected workforce makes it difficult for retailers to enable the type of agility required to be both proactive and responsive to rapid market changes.
But, imagine for a moment that you could sit down and have a one-on-one meeting with each associate at the beginning of every shift. In that time, you could tell them about the latest promotions, price overrides, a delayed shipment or incoming replenishment and answer any questions they might have. You could stop bad habits from forming. And you could be confident knowing that your employees had the information they needed to delight each and every one of your customers.
Realistically, especially for large organizations, this scenario just isn’t feasible. But what if it was? Think of what you could achieve!
Your associates would be so in-the-know that your customers would view them as trusted experts. You could transform your workforce into masters of CX. That kind differentiator would drive some serious competitive advantage.
That’s essentially what the Axonify Microlearning Platform does, but in a way that’s both automated and scalable. Axonify facilitates targeted, one-to-one communications, allowing you to better engage associates and keep them in the loop in real time. It changes behaviors by identifying and correcting the wrong ones and reinforcing the right ones with continuous learning. It provides on-demand access to knowledge, so associates can quickly and conveniently find the information and answers they’re looking for (rather than consulting a manual or chasing down a manager). It also connects your workforce to the people, tools and information they need to succeed. It can also help you proactively prepare your workforce for the holiday season.
This year, don’t leave your holiday preparation to the last minute (like I did with my shopping last year). You’ll only overwhelm your associates at a time when they’re simply too busy to listen or learn. Start preparing them now. That way you can be confident that, when you’re in the thick of it, your associates have knowledge and tools they need to make your customers’ holiday wishes come true!