Effective chain-wide communications regarding new processes and procedures, training programs, regional sales calls, earnings reports and other business intelligence are vital to ensuring all team members are on the same page. For retailers with multiple locations across geographic locations, the ability to provide instant and seamless access to this information is not just nice to have — it’s a necessity.
To keep its widespread employee population in tune with operational and corporate developments, Bon-Ton, a men’s, women’s and children’s apparel retailer, now leverages an integrated communications and collaboration tool services package. The advancement is an upgrade from its free, out-sourced conference call services that were limiting its capabilities.
Bon-Ton implemented several communication solutions from InterCall, including its Reservationless-Plus audio conferencing services, as well as Microsoft Office Live Meeting and Cisco WebEx. In doing so, the company successfully bridged the communication gap between store associates, location managers and the corporate staff, Chris Sass, Multi-Media Production Manager for Bon-Ton, told Retail TouchPoints.
Bridging this gap is essential, Sass reported, since Bon-Ton employees are spread among 280 brick-and-mortar stores and distribution centers in 24 states throughout the northern U.S., as well as four corporate locations.
Corporate training procedures particularly gained improvement through the InterCall video and audio conferencing solutions. “We drive many programs from our corporate locations out to the retail stores,” Sass explained. “These initiatives require detailed, often step-by-step procedural training, which now can be done on-demand.”
Bon-Ton executives can conduct and record conference calls and training sessions then archive the files, Sass explained. All files can be forwarded across the network, enabling immediate, on-demand presentations. “This process eliminates the need for multiple training sessions, and conference and web calls, considerably increasing productivity,” Sass added. “The recording capabilities also circumvent the time zone conflicts present across geographical areas in which we operate.”
Associates receive instructions on using the Intercall tools in the same way ― instantly, step-by-step and on-demand, so that the tools may be leveraged easily for conference initiators and attendees. “It is very important for our business units to communicate quickly and effectively with their managers, associates and key personnel,” Sass said. “When those meetings are scheduled, conducting or joining them should never be the issue; that process should be second nature ― seamless and effortless.”
Reservationless-Plus further streamlines the conference call process with separate dial-in numbers and access codes for specific departments. Replacing the process of one number and code for the entire company helps ensure that the service is available at all times.
Prior to the Intercall solution, meeting initiators required pre-approval of their conference call scheduling requests. “With this smarter, more seamless process,” Sass said, “we no longer need to micromanage these ongoing conference requests.”
Meeting initiators simply obtain an expense number from their department managers and set up a profile. “When a manager grants that expense number,” Sass declared, “we know the call has been deemed valuable.”
With Microsoft Office Live Meeting, department representatives nationwide can share PowerPoint presentations, whiteboards and other applications quickly and easily. Moreover, the use of Cisco WebEx Training Center’s application and presentation sharing, high-quality video conferencing and other features helped Bon-Ton create uniform training processes and maximize productivity throughout the company.
Bon-Ton eventually will integrate video training and conferencing optimized for mobile, Sass noted, due to continual advancements in smartphone and tablet adoption.
“With the scattered, long distance environment in which Bon-Ton operates, we continually require instant communications across all departments and locations,” Sass said. “Our associates want the information and education available to them. But if they have to struggle to get to it, our communications battle has been lost. These new tools bring cohesion and improved productivity and, in the end, help drive sales.”