In a recent New York Times Magazine article entitled Thinking Outside the (Big) Box, Adam Davidson (of NPR's “Planet Money) talks about a great customer service experience he had at Ikea recently when he went shopping for a closet system. He found the staff to be both available and helpful. He was surprised given that he'd had a prior experience years ago that wasn't so hot, so he decided to investigate what had changed. He spoke with an executive at Ikea and learned the following:
"This wasn't a fluke. A couple of days later, Rob Olson, the C.F.O. of Ikea U.S., told me that since my last visit, the company had invested in a new (Kronos) work-force-management system that reminded me of much of Ton's thesis. The software helps the company to better distribute workers throughout the store, so that there are more of them in the areas where people have the most questions, like closets."
The "Ton" referred to above is Zeynep Ton, a business professor at MIT and author of the new book "The Good Jobs Strategy". In the book (available next week) Ton argues that paying workers more and treating them better is better for the bottom line. In her research for the book, Ton learned that even low cost retailers can provide good jobs for their employees while keeping costs low for their customers. In the low cost retail sector, she found that the best employers operated on 4 key principles:
That last item is the one that workforce management software enables, providing employers with accurate data and predictive analytics about the staffing levels required to deliver a great customer experience.
If you're interested in learning more about Zeynep Ton's research:
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