Pause for just a moment and imagine if your best employees — like those you entrust to manage your cash — in each store suddenly had 30 extra minutes available each day. What would you have them do? While the possibilities are endless, you probably have a few key areas you’d like to improve.
Before we get to that — where exactly would they find that extra 30 minutes? A new brief from the retail consultants at L.E.K. Consulting outlines five ways retailers can address labor concerns and do more in less time as labor costs rise. On the list is making non-customer-facing activity more efficient.
There are plenty of ways to be more efficient that customers don’t see, and currency management is a behind-the-scenes area retailers often overlook. If you optimize currency operations to cut at least 30 minutes off back office procedures like reconciliation, deposit preparation and reporting, you’ll find that there are a lot of other things employees could be doing that your customers do see. After all, in retail, every minute counts.
- Online order fulfillment: A study of retail labor by EKN showed that 70 percent was spent on operations — not on customer service or selling. With omnichannel fulfillment on the rise, the process of pulling, organizing and filling online orders stands to occupy more and more of employees’ time. Shifting back office time to fulfillment can keep other associates available to sell and help customers.
- Merchandising: When displays or shelves are so messy that it’s hard to find products and sizes, customers get frustrated and are more likely to leave empty-handed. On the other hand, a neatly-merchandised store keeps customers shopping longer and gives them a better chance of finding what they want. When associates spend an extra 30 minutes daily straightening racks and displays, folding, and organizing, the resulting neat, well-stocked shelves, straightened hangers and cleared fitting rooms all make a positive impression on customers.
- Training: Your employees are the face and the voice of your business. Keep managers out on the floor, spending extra time with new hires, giving attention to those who need additional help, sharing tips and hard-won knowledge, and refreshing long-term employees on policy. They’ll raise the level of customer service your entire staff provides and foster more employee loyalty.
- Cleaning/Maintenance: In a 2015 poll, 85 percent of consumers surveyed said negative online reviews about cleanliness would keep them away from a business. Some store locations have hundreds or thousands of shoppers coming in from the elements every day. They leave footprints, touch merchandise, use facilities and generally leave a mark on your locations. Make customers feel at home in your clean, well-maintained stores by freeing your staff to spend an extra half-hour dusting, mopping, shining mirrors, cleaning bathrooms, or replacing light bulbs.
- Loss prevention: Shoplifting accounts for 39 percent of inventory shrink according to the 2016 National Retail Security Survey. Your team’s physical presence on the sales floor and friendly customer service help deter theft, so make sure they’re not stuck in the office instead.
- Stocking: Is there anything worse than empty shelves or stacks of unopened shipment boxes on your dock? Stores that receive product daily, in particular, need to get that merchandise out on the floor quickly. In some larger stores, stocking might be the responsibility of a different team altogether, but in many cases the management team and salespeople handle the job. If so, they can use a 30-minute block to begin moving product to the floor as soon as possible.
- Customer service: In a 2017 study by TimeTrade, 47 percent of consumers said they most valued prompt service while shopping, and 49 percent said they were "extremely likely" to buy if they were helped by a knowledgeable associate. The more you get away from non-productive tasks (like cash counting and manual reporting) in favor of productive tasks (like ringing up orders and greeting shoppers), the better service you are providing. And that means more sales, period.
With 30 minutes (or more) each day spent making your stores better — instead of on currency management tasks and reporting — your employees can add value to your business and to customer experience. Take a minute to consider just how much time your in-store employees spend on currency management tasks. (And if you’re not sure, it’s time to find out.) Don’t spend your minutes counting — make your minutes count.