Black Friday is right around the corner, and for retail employers who are struggling to find talent, the key to a successful and profitable holiday shopping season may lie in reskilling your existing workforce.
As we previously reported in order to compete with online retailers, traditional brick and mortar stores have increased their staffing numbers ahead of the holiday rush. For example, Macy’s is expected to hire 80,000 seasonal workers, the same number as last year. Michaels has announced plans to hire 15,000-holiday workers, and 1-800-Flowers will staff an additional 8,000 workers for the holidays, both on track with their hiring plans last year.
And it’s not just traditional retailers who are increasing their workforce numbers, FedEx is looking to expand its workforce by 55,000 workers, 5,000 more than last year, to help its current staff deliver the onslaught of expected holiday packages. While these numbers are favorable for larger employers, small- to medium-sized business continue to struggle.
“With a tight labor market, and the busy holiday season just around the corner, employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find and retain workers,” says Rebecca Henderson, CEO of Randstad Sourceright, a global human capital solutions provider.
“To ensure they meet their business goals, companies should invest in re-skilling and incentivizing their existing workforce,” Henderson adds. “This will allow organizations to remain competitive despite a worker shortage. Re-skilling also positively impacts morale, building a more engaged and loyal workforce that already understands the organization’s mission and culture.”
In order to blow customer expectations out of the water this holiday season, retailers will need to be strategic in skilling up their workforce in key areas that matter most to their customers—namely, mobile, blended (physical and digital), and voice-assisted services—and ensure their employee experience (EX) is on par with their customer experience (CX).
Monti Becker Kelly, Vice President of Global Account Management at Sitel Group, offers 3 ways to skill up employees for the holiday season:
1. Bots to Build on the Mobile Experience
Mobile continues to be a strong component of e-commerce growth through the end of 2018. Last year’s holiday shopping data shows that U.S. retail m-commerce sales were up more than 40% in Q4 2017, and they are expected to grow an additional 32.7% in 2018.
To improve consumers’ mobile retail experience, seasonal hires—especially customer service agents— must be adequately trained to follow the customer journey across multiple devices and platforms, whether the customer is making a purchase on an app, browsing a mobile site, or posing questions to a chatbot.
Equipping agents with data-driven resources to track the individual customer journey—like an integrated system of records, customer behavioral analytics, advanced matching, and more—is an effective, but small step in helping agents provide optimal customer service.
Robots are slated to be a game-changer for shoppers and CX agents alike this holiday season. Robots are crucial in handling more menial CX tasks—like questions related to billing and store inventory— providing human agents with the time and mental bandwidth they need to handle more complicated and emotionally driven customer interactions.
2. Bringing the Online Shopping Experience to Life (and Vice Versa)
It is critical that CX agents have the ability to guide customers through their purchases regardless of where the customer is on their shopping journey. Whether the customer is in a physical store and trying to locate a particular item or trying to track a delayed order online, agents must be able to efficiently assess the customer’s disposition and provide a resolution quickly.
Arming employees with strategies—like a scoring methodology called the “Human Touch Index”— will help CX agents evaluate contact drivers (e.g., “Where are the fitting rooms?” or “Where is my package?”) and rank the emotional impact of each interaction. T
his strategy allows agents to effectively identify customers’ tone and emotional attitude (i.e., a customer with a shipping issue is likely to be more perturbed than a shopper wondering where the fitting rooms are), respond promptly and appropriately to their issue, and set them on the right resolution path.
3. All You Have to Do Is Ask—Smart Speakers to Dominate Holiday Shopping Experiences
With 32% of consumers owning a smart speaker as of August 2018 (compared to 28% in January 2018), brands can expect smart-speaker shopping to explode this holiday season. Further reports show that nearly half of all consumers use voice assistants to search for and research products, and 43% use them to make shopping lists and more than 33% run price comparisons on them.
Skilling up retail workers and CX agents to work alongside voice assistants is critical, as the technology could actually yield heightened emotions during this already stressful time. There are few things more exasperating than having to repeat yourself multiple times, and reports continue to reveal biases within natural language processing (NLP)—making smart speakers particularly challenging for women and people with accents.
In order to provide customer service that is empathic, accurate and, above all, inclusive, brands should consider leveraging virtual reality (VR) technology to run CX agents through difficult scenarios—especially in instances where consumers have struggled through an interaction with a smart speaker.
This will not only help boost the professionalism of your staff once the holidays hit, but it will also provide them with learning experiences so they can succeed in their role and understand frustrations from the shopper’s perspective.
Building Relationships and Spreading Cheer
When it comes to bringing on new hires for the holidays—either seasonally or long-term—the bottom line is that the likelihood of employee loyalty and retention is greater if companies provide the tools and training workers needed to do their jobs smoothly during this hectic time.
The good news is that advancements in technology will enable brands to get CX agents up to speed quickly and without a lot of heavy lifting. What’s key is maintaining a strong focus on continuous learning opportunities so employees feel empowered, engaged, and motivated during the holiday rush and beyond.