Although much of the normal face-to-face interaction in retail locations was on a hiatus this past year, Americans are coming back to brick-and-mortar stores in droves, and they expect what they deserve — a top-notch customer experience. In one survey, more than half of customers surveyed have higher customer service expectations than they had one year ago.
At the same time, many businesses such as factories, banks and wholesalers are experiencing difficulty staffing their operations. Others such as restaurants are closing earlier than normal or during certain times of the day because they are understaffed. And this isn’t just affecting small companies — it’s hitting the big ones like FedEx, Chewy, Choice Hotels International and Urban Outfitters, too.
What they’re finding is now, perhaps more than ever, they need to make employees happy. The employee experience is directly related to the customer experience, as employees are no less important than customers when it comes to an organization’s success. By improving the employee experience, retailers improve the customer experience. And customers care how you treat employees and about how empathetic you are.
To improve the customer and employee experience and overcoming staffing issues, many retailers are tapping into the gig economy to supplement their workforce.
Have an Opening? Hire a Gig Worker
The retail labor shortage is real as brands struggle to attract and retain employees. By hiring gig workers, retailers can ease some of the stress their current work staff is experiencing. Gartner estimates gig workers comprise between 15% to 25% of the workforce today, and will account for 35% to 40% of all employees by 2025.
Gig workers can fill the gap by easing staffing burdens, which in turn will help improve the experience your brand delivers to your customers.
Reeling Them in
But how can you attract them?
Multitasking gig workers expect flexibility, which includes being their own boss, setting their own hours and saying yes to projects that make them tick. They want to make money when, where and how they want, but also gain the satisfaction of knowing they’re making a difference.
Therefore, consider the following suggestions:
- Use tools that help gig workers find you such as US Tech Solutions, GigSmart, or Shiftgig. Have a truck that needs to be unloaded? Need accounting, IT or engineering staff? Or are you getting ready for a back-to-school blowout sale and need extra help? Think about ways you deviate from the norm to hire for short-term and one-off shifts that gig workers are used to.
- Pay them with earned wage access (EWA) solutions and pay cards. This gives them instant access to wages earned but that they have not yet been paid for, much quicker than many traditional methods, like depositing a check into a bank account. In fact, with EWA solutions, gig workers can entirely forego bank accounts.
- Offer financial incentives that include sign-up bonuses. This could be a one-time bonus, accelerated earnings (pay before the work is completed) or free tools or services related to their work. For instance, consider providing delivery drivers a free tune-up at a local auto service provider or a $100 voucher for gasoline.
- Provide useful feedback since they don’t know what they don’t know. Rather than looking at gig workers as one-off employees, treat them as you would with your part-time and permanent employees. Did they do a stellar job or are there certain things they could improve upon?
- Let them know how much you appreciate the work they’ve done. Thank them for their help and ask them to consider coming back to work for you regularly or even taking on a temporary role. Consider giving them a small token of your appreciation in the form of a branded item such as a T-shirt or fidget spinner.
- Help them manage their stress. A lot of retail locations don’t have a break room or even a table for their employees to take a load off during their breaks. If you have the room, consider adding such a space to your establishment — and make it nice, not a card table squeezed into your supply closet.
- Make work enjoyable. Have your staff brainstorm some light-hearted or competitive activities, write them down and put them in a hat. Once or twice a week select a worker at random and have them draw one idea from the hat.
Go Get ‘em — Tap Into the Gig Movement
When employees are satisfied with their work, they’re much more likely to help brands please their customers, and gig workers can help. The gig movement is booming — it’s predicted that by 2027, half of the U.S. workforce will freelance. And don’t forget — as customers continue to frequent your businesses, they’ll not only want, but also expect, great interactions with your staff. If you’re short-staffed, remember that gig workers can bolster your workforce and help make the difference between a subpar or average customer experience and a memorable one.
Therefore, if you’re having a hard time staffing up, utilize staffing platforms, consider increasing benefits, help employees manage stress and make work fun. At the end of the day, happy workers make strong workers, and they’re good for business.
Brian Radin is the President of Comdata Prepaid. In his career, he has had proven success with market leaders and start-ups across software, business services, human capital management and finance industries. He also has an impeccable record of maximizing the strategic business model, optimizing business processes, and creating innovative initiatives that facilitate sustainable growth and generate traction in competitive markets. Radin has been recognized for identifying/securing key partners and sales channels, raising capital, building strategic C-level relationships with the investment community and for developing highly engaged leadership teams that increased revenue, profitability and customer satisfaction.