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Empowering Your Staff


Brick-and-mortar stores may as well throw in the towel if they’re not going to take advantage of one of their most valuable resources: their staff.

Your sales associates can tip the scales. They are the key differentiating factor that websites don’t have. And while internet shopping sites offer pop-up chat sessions with “live” people, interacting while typing on a keypad is just not the same as speaking with someone in person. People go to stores not only to see product, but for the social interaction and experience.

Stores seem to underestimate the value of talking to someone knowledgeable, but customers don’t. There is no substitute for personal interaction and assistance. Your staff is the front line and they should have the knowledge, skills and tools to assist well-informed consumers, who have already been online researching their options.

There are a number of arguments as to why sales staff shouldn’t have store-provided mobile devices at their disposal. Many sales associates are digitally savvy so the training and learning curve in that area isn’t the question.

Some store operations managers have voiced their concerns:

* The staff will just be calling or texting their friends.

* They will access, and be distracted by, social media.

* They’ll access inappropriate content for public spaces.

* They will be inefficient and non-productive.

* They’ll be too distracted to pay attention to customers.

* They will likely break or lose expensive equipment.

* They won’t know how to use it with customers.

* They might show customers their competitors’ prices.

The question is, if you hired them and they went through an extensive screening process, why don’t you trust them?

Retail certainly isn’t static, and the rate at which retail buying opportunities are changing is so fast, why make it more challenging by putting obstacles in the way? Stores need to be and are already creating “shopping experiences,” and they also need to seamlessly link to their online counterparts. The go-between who connects these dots is the salesperson, and what better way to join these forces than equipping them with tablets?

Some chains are already supplying staff with mobile devices so their sales associates can assist customers, check on inventory, and book services. Many restaurant staff people already use tablets to streamline operations and connect with customers.

The arguments for properly equipping staff seem to outweigh the negatives:

  • Customers already use their smartphones to showroom. Level the playing field and give your associates the same edge.
  • Smartphones supply content-rich information that even digital displays miss.
  • With consumer demand for personalization at an all-time high, use of these devices can provide viewing first-hand demos, as well as tools to help customize solutions.
  • Training is easier and less costly.  Mobile devices can provide staff with comprehensive product knowledge and training that can be customized to departments.
  • The tablets associates use can offer unique opportunities to use tools to help shoppers buy what’s right for them and offer personalized solutions not available online.

It seems that proper staff training and caveats on mobile usage are the order of the day. Don’t make the shopping environment less user-friendly. Stores should be using their best resources—their staff—to encourage sales and create a positive experience.

If providing wifi access in-store securely is a stumbling block for store owners, then they’re not seeing the big picture, since this is quickly becoming an expectation in today’s retail environment.

TAGS: retail, retail trends, retailers, work in retail, management,
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