Published on: January 8, 2019by Michael Sansolo
It should be abundantly clear by now that there will be no simple strategy to emerge victorious in the coming competitive war with e-commerce. We’ve had articles recently examining various tactics being tried from the emphasis on click and collect to even complicated tax strategies to cut fixed costs.
But there is no single solution, no one right answer.
However, one idea keeps popping up that demands the attention of traditional retailers: the notion of building an in-store experience that is so strong it will attract shoppers off their sofas and away from Internet based ordering. But even that idea itself rests on a complex point:
We will clearly need motivated and engaged staffers to make the in-store experience and customer interactions special. That’s something that even the most sophisticated technologies can only assist, but not replace. And, to be frank, it’s a problem.
Take this from whatever direction you want. Unemployment stands at historic low levels currently, which means that the competition for really good staffers is more pitched than ever, especially since retail jobs are rarely considered the most desired. So the burden will increasingly fall on management to ensure proper training of front-line staff and managers to build workplace environments that produce the customer experience so essential to these battles.
Here’s the bad news: that’s going to take a lot of work. Back before Christmas, the Washington Post featured a
perspective written by a retail worker that clearly outlined what a problem we have. It’s an article that will likely irritate you no end if you are above a certain level in any company. But I guarantee there are countless front-line workers you know who will cheer every point.
Through the years, I’ve known retailers who have viewed staffers as cost centers or disposable liabilities best replaced repeatedly and quickly to avoid costing too much. Not surprisingly, many of those folks are no longer in business having lost out to companies that value staffers and show a willingness to pay for experience and longevity, knowing that both traits can enhance the customer experience.
But the reality is that those bottom-line minded individuals weren’t without logic. Staff does cost and services aren’t free. But it strikes me that we need to turn the discussion around to focus on the assets that good, engaged and knowledgeable staffers can bring to the shopping experience.
We can all cite experiences where the actions of a single individual managed to make our day and turn an ordinary chore into something pleasant. It could something as simple as a server in restaurant making a suggestion that enhances a meal or a chambermaid in a hotel giving me some extra towels. And we have all experienced the opposite and, quite frankly, much of what we write about here at MNB documents both of those types of occasions.
Even the way a cashier in a supermarket looks at me (or doesn’t) and certainly how they sack my produce will mean far more to me than that same company’s policies on countless issues. People make—or break—the experience.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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