Without customers, retail businesses grind to a halt. That’s why price and merchandise are carefully curated to align with brand image. But buyers aren’t shopping your brand solely based on inventory — they’re equally as motivated by the engagement they have with your service employees. This is especially important for ecommerce businesses, because consumers have thousands of online retailers available at their fingertips.
To keep your customers from clicking over to your competitors, it’s important to remember that the service that occurs between retail customers and employees is the most significant differentiator between companies. You can’t neglect the importance of what your employees say and do during consumer interactions.
Ecommerce employees serve as the bridge between corporations and customers. Consequently, companies need to put their best performers out front and keep them around. But there’s a problem: Employee retention in retail has never been stellar, evidenced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics naming it as an industry with one of the highest historical turnover rates.
How high can that turnover be? Research puts the retail worker churn at about 67% before the pandemic. In the aftermath of COVID-19, the numbers are bleaker; a study by The Washington Post revealed that more than half a million retail employees resigned in April 2021. Put in perspective, that’s the biggest monthly flight rate for retail workers in more than 20 years.
While it might be tempting to turn to robots or self-serve chatbots to satisfy your retail buyers, you need to explore ways to keep actual people on the payroll — like treating your employees as internal customers.
Creating a Positive Employee Experience in Retail
It might seem strange at first to view your workers as customers. But treating them with the same appreciation that you provide shoppers offers several benefits.
For starters, employees tend to share great workplace experiences. If your ecommerce workers feel that you’re communicating with them respectfully, they’ll be more apt to mimic that kind of rapport with buyers. Frontline team members who feel supported and empowered are more likely to pay that kindness forward during customer exchanges.
Another advantage to creating a positive employee experience happens at the cultural level. By maintaining a service-centered culture at all levels, you encourage people to take initiative. For instance, well-treated retail workers might feel less of a need to push problems upward and will instead attempt to resolve issues themselves.
A final benefit to seeing employees as customers is that you’ll find it easier to get temporary talent to return. They’ll know that you train effectively, care about their morale and want everyone to succeed — in short, what everyone wants from an employer. Having that knowledge already makes their decision to return or recommend your company to someone else that much easier.
Improving Employee Engagement in the Retail Industry
If retail employee turnover continues to be an issue, there’s a chance to reverse the problem. Below are some quick tips that can help invigorate the employee experience so valuable workers can remain in the fold and continue to wow your customers.
1. Develop meaningful employee onboarding processes.
How you train makes all the difference and can boost retention by 25%. When training your team members, design sessions that put them in the customer’s shoes. For instance, you might want to walk them through different customer journeys.
By understanding the average customer’s viewpoint and reality early, incoming employees can gain a clearer picture of what the customer might need. As a result, they should feel more confident resolving customer concerns and making choices that align with your branding and operational expectations.
2. Role-play common customer situations during onboarding.
It’s easy to forget that many retail employees have limited experience when it comes to dealing with everyday shopper situations. Instead of just telling your workers how you want them to behave when dealing with an irritated customer, put them through the scenarios during training.
Role-playing under the guidance of a helpful trainer can build employees’ “muscle memory” when it comes to best practices for overcoming objectives, listening respectfully, responding appropriately, and customizing solutions.
3. Avoid rushing seasonal employment training programs.
In ecommerce you need seasonal workers, and you need them quickly. While that’s understandable, you risk losing people just as quickly if they’re not onboarded well. Even though you can’t keep temporary retail workers on the payroll for more than a few weeks or months, you need to train them in a way that fuels future success.
The more care you put into onboarding your seasonal employees, the more care they’ll show your customers. Plus, they might want to come back the next time you need seasonal employment help.
4. Create a user-friendly learning environment.
People learn differently. Some need visuals to understand concepts. Others want to do something a few times to make sense of it. Consequently, you’ll need to adapt your training methods to suit a variety of learners.
Being adaptable on the training level makes employees feel heard and more self-assured. It also ensures that your company knowledge has the best chance of being transferred to newer workers. This means they can take what they’ve discovered and pass along terrific service to your shoppers.
In ecommerce, you want your employees to make sure they’re presenting your brand in the best light, so treat them with the reverence they deserve. You’ll have a better chance of retaining talented people — and more time to focus attention on growth and productivity.
Tony Martin is the SVP of Operational Excellence and Innovation at Integrity Staffing Solutions, a full-service staffing agency ranked in the top 2% of agencies across the country for quality service based on ClearlyRated’s “Best of Staffing” client survey.