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BI Gains Traction In WFM Solutions For Improving Customer Service Featured

  • Written by  Lorna Pappas, Contributing Editor

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Insightful and informed store associates are essential to improving in-store customer engagement and positive brand experiences. Yet many retailers are unable to effectively serve their shoppers, as showrooming, increased labor costs, technology pressures and other factors continue to affect optimal workforce management.

The majority (65%) of U.S. retailers recently surveyed by Aberdeen Group said they struggle with how to allocate staff, given market pressures and ever-changing demands and expectations. Almost half (47%) said their current workforce was insufficient to meet anticipated business needs. Retailers’ top strategic action was to align daily employee scheduling based on factors such as workload and business demands, but more than half (53%) said they spend too much time producing these schedules.

In order to address WFM challenges, legacy system constraints and other obstacles to efficient staffing and stellar customer service, retailers are adopting business intelligence (BI) initiatives to integrate operational data into future WFM systems. Although 92% of retailers currently do not utilize labor analytics and similar BI tools, more than half (54%) plan to engage them to support future WFM decisions. This notable 46% jump parallels the 57% jump (from 14% to 74%) in retailers planning to integrate workforce and business performance data to expand their knowledge management capabilities (as mentioned previously). These data sets indicate that BI will play a much stronger role in WFM decisions going forward.

These and other insights were revealed in the recent Aberdeen Group study, titled: Workforce Management: The Key to Retail Customer Service, released in November 2012 and based on data collected from 91. The study assessed retailers’ pressures, strategic actions, current and planned knowledge management capabilities and technology enablers, and use of mobile in WFM strategies.

Merchants surveyed said the primary challenges to coordinating store-level staff to best deliver optimum shopping experiences were as follows:

  • Insufficient workforce utilization rates (59%);
  • Managers spend too much time on producing schedules (53%);
  • Insufficient workforce to meet anticipated business needs (47%);
  • Employee turnover or engagement issues (41%); and 
  • HR spends too much time on manual transactions (41%).
     

Retailers recognize the effects of these pressures “and are making significant efforts to create better customer engagement and top-notch customer service to stand out from their competition,” the report disclosed. The top priority ― using a skillful, knowledgeable store-level team as their core asset ― “pushes retailers to set aside trepidation and realign WFM strategies to achieve this goal.” Integrated WFM systems give retailers “a clear vision of their labor needs and allocations, and allows them to schedule the best customer facing employees when they need them most on the sales floor.”

The survey revealed the top strategic actions retailers are pursuing to streamline the workforce and deliver higher levels of customer service. These include:

  • Aligning employee schedules based on workload, business demand, etc. (53%);
  • Capturing more detailed labor data (41%);
  • Standardizing workforce management processes (35%);
  • Automating workforce management systems (29%); and
  • Utilizing analytics to improve manager visibility (29%).

 

Goals For Automating WFM

Retailers are evaluating the functionalities that can create the best WFM solution for their enterprises. Though efforts currently are lagging, interest in integration is gaining momentum industry-wide. As it does, Aberdeen looked more closely at the key knowledge management capabilities retailers currently utilize, and which they planned to adopt within the next 24 months.

Data Summary

Current

Planned

WFM software is integrated with payroll and other core HR systems.

43%

50%

Central repository is maintained and updated with all WFM data

36%

50%

Time and attendance is integrated with scheduling system

38%

46%

WFM data is integrated with business performance data

14%

71%

WFM data is integrated with talent management data (learning, performance, recruiting, etc.)

8%

46%

WFM data is integrated with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution

15%

62%

Individual and team deployment data (output, productivity, performance, etc.) is taken into account when creating schedules

14%

71%


Specific Technologies Planned

To facilitate these knowledge management capabilities, retailers pointed to current and planned technology enhancements. Solutions receiving the greatest interest (as shown below) included: automated scheduling solutions (from 21% current to 57% planned); competency management software tools (from 7% to 50%); labor analytics and business intelligence tools (8% to 54%); and absence management software (29% to 43%). These and other trends in WFM technology enablers were indicated in the report as follows:

Data Summary

Current

Planned

Automated time and attendance tracking solution

50%

43%

Automated scheduling solutions (from  to);

21%

57%

Learning Management System (LMS)

36%

43%

Performance management software

29%

57%

Competency management software tools

7%

50%

Labor analytics/business intelligence tools to determine gaps in skills, proficiencies or knowledge

8%

54%

Enterprise Resource Planning software solutions

36%

28%

Fatigue management tools

29%

7%

Absence management software

29%

43%


Managers Leverage Mobile

All retailers (100%) surveyed by Aberdeen use SMS messaging to communicate scheduling information to employees, 75% supply smart phone apps for employee self-service, and 41% are deploying more WFM tools on mobile devices. While mobile-equipped employees now can view schedules, timesheets, holiday and sick leave, pay stubs and more, managers also are discovering the value of mobile for administrative functions: Currently 67% of managers are using mobile devices to view and approve timesheets; view, modify and approve schedules; and approve time-off requests.

“This movement shows that retailers are ready to take both the employee and manager out of the back room, give them the tools they need to manage their scheduling needs, and still maintain service levels with shoppers, especially during peak business hours” the study disclosed. “The result is a more streamlined mobile staff that is ready to engage shoppers on the sales floor.”

For a complete copy of the report, which includes two retailer “case in point” overviews and a complete analysis of survey data, click here.

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