OK – I borrowed the title from a Steely Dan song from one of my favorite albums (link provided for those born after 1970). The song refers to a few cataclysmic events. For retailers, it refers to the day after Thanksgiving – when the holiday shopping begins in earnest, and retailers’ financial fates are in the hands of the consumers. Retailers are worried this holiday season as the mortgage market does the mambo, oil hits $100 per barrel, and the average consumer may be inclined to limit the holiday budget while waiting out the storm.
In partnership with Retail Systems Research, we’ve recently concluded a survey of major retailers entitled “The State of Retail Workforce Management”. You can download the full text of the survey from their website. This research is especially timely as it highlights the balancing act retailers need to achieve between customer service and expense management. From the Research section of this site, you can download “Customer Centricity’s Impact on the Workforce”, by Nikki Baird, Managing Partner at RSR Research. This article summarizes the survey findings and describes how management practices for the retail workforce and the tools used to manage the workforce must change if retailers are to survive in a customer-centric environment.
Among the principle findings of the survey is that while retailers almost universally cite their workforce, and specifically their customer facing workforce, as their most important asset, many still treat their workers as a means to an end vs. a strategic asset. There are some exceptions out there. In his blog HRCleanUp, my friend Jay Hargis cites customer service leaders like Starbucks and In-N-Out Burger that offer their employees benefits and seem to reap the rewards in employee and customer loyalty. A recent Boston Globe story indicates that some retailers are rethinking the marathon hours for their employees, and foregoing 5 am opening times in favor of having well rested employees who they believe will produce a better result for them.
I’d love to hear from you about retailers you think are doing a great job balancing employee satisfaction with business results. Happy shopping!