Retail associate cutbacks and high turnover mean fewer on-floor associates available for shopping assistance and, unfortunately, sales personnel who are often less knowledgeable than the educated consumer seeking them out. Today’s lean stores challenge field managers to train quickly and mentor deeply, because every associate makes a difference, every consumer interaction counts, and every increase in sales impacts the bottom line.
The all-important frontline associates, the experience-makers, can no longer be managed from miles away. They need boots on the ground, who are prepared to ensure their success. Field managers are today’s retail ground forces. They comprise the support team that not only views performance data and confirms knowledge transfer, but continually helps associates exercise that knowledge, grow in their positions and feel confident as part of a winning team. But where do they get the information, training and data to help them impact their front-line?
New mobile technologies disrupt the traditional flow of retail information to allow a reverse pyramid model that starts at top with the front line: the store’s associates. It moves down to manageable groups of associates, led by field managers with and right tools and data, giving them knowledge and data to drive corporate strategies. Today, not tomorrow. The best mobile tools give access in real-time so store management can be pro-active. When data is actionable, it is easily leveraged to do what people can do and technology never could: Coach, mentor, educate, chat, provide and receive immediate feedback, and help associates better understand the connection between behavior and results.
As the industry talks about metrics, KPIs and technologies that churn those numbers out, managers often struggle with using that data more effectively to really impact associate engagements and better influence associate-to-customer interactions. Store leadership needs easy to access, ongoing real-time data that allows them to connect with individual associates, or groups of them, on a daily basis to lead and mentor.
Using the data, not the technology, is the competitive advantage that brings field managers’ influence to a new level. A new work process pivots on getting better information faster, and having the knowledge with real-time data to engage quickly and directly with associates daily — not via reports or phone calls weekly. This access to data allows store leaders to better access individuals, answer questions and coach to drive performance.
Whether the data is positive or an opportunity for improvement, it is the human interaction between manager and their associates, based on real data, which yields the results managers need to improve customer satisfaction and increase sales. In addition, the field can quickly communicate product knowledge, selling and cross-selling opportunities, problem-solving techniques, professional and management development, the latest corporate announcements and other timely information.
Deeper into the management structure, if a district manager sees that a store manager is not engaging associates in the digital training, that’s a red flag. Those accountable for store performance have the data required for clear visibility into where support may be needed.
With real-time results of associate quizzes looping back to managers, the field can quickly react to the data in a way that continuously drives engagement and performance. This feedback loop of data allows managers not only to verify and assess associate participation and identify opportunities to celebrate and mentor, but to confirm communications and knowledge transfer. Managers can react proactively to data received to continually build an associate’s skill set, best aided by a continuous feedback loop.
Access to and delivery of information done in an intelligent way makes average sellers significantly better performers who create considerably greater business results. In fact, a Mobile Associate Communications Platform validates a best practice used in higher education: Give “students” — i.e., store associates — the tools and information they need to perform at their best and brightest, and if they are engaged, quizzed and mentored, they will be successful. If you treat the student who has an average IQ as if they were the top of their university class saying, “Here’s sophisticated training platform we know you can master,” then self-assurance and performance will follow.
We have seen the proof that every associate makes a difference, every consumer interaction counts, and every drop and increase in sales impacts the bottom line. Field managers with boots on the ground, armed with real-time data streams are perfectly positioned and freed to drive corporate strategies — given the right tools and thorough understanding of how to leverage the data. Then they can do what they do best, which technology can never do: Get and provide immediate feedback to guide associates in better understanding the connection between behavior and results — and driving a more profitable business.
Jodi Harouche is chief creative officer and president of Multimedia Plus.