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How Connected Employees Can Better Serve Connected Customers


Few would argue that COVID-19 did not disrupt every facet of today’s retail marketplace. From stock-outs and reduced store hours to social distancing and mask requirements, retail may never be the same. Why? Because the ever-changing conditions brought about in 2020 changed the way we shop. For example, the Buy Online Pick-up In-store (BOPIS) approach took center-stage. It became the ideal option for customers who know what they want, are seeking convenience (and safety), and want that item right away. It’s safe to say, BOPIS is now here to stay.

But for BOPIS or any other solution to take hold, you must ensure employees understand how to meet customer needs and use technology properly to deliver the intended customer experience (CX). That requires your employees to be engaged enough to be well-trained and up to date on in-store promotions and product knowledge. Unfortunately, that can sound easier than it is to put into practice. According to RSR research, 40% of retailers see employee engagement, or the lack thereof, as a major challenge to rolling out CX-focused technology. Additionally, when employees are less engaged, they often begin looking at other places to work. The same study also found that 36% of retailers reported that retaining good employees is a top challenge.

It all boils down to employee engagement and customer expectations and how deeply intertwined they are. After all, it’s not helpful to employee morale—or to your brand and customer loyalty goals—to promise a certain type of experience and not have it delivered. That can easily happen when customers expect the ease and convenience of BOPIS, only to encounter long lines, inventory issues, and untrained or flustered staff.

So, how do you engage employees? By providing the training and tools they need to meet and exceed customer expectations. According to an article by Gallop, 4 Things Gen Z and Millennials Expect from Their Workplace, “engaged employees act differently, going above and beyond to surpass expectations and that gives their organizations a competitive advantage.” This discretionary effort means they are not directly concerned with their wages, but rather, with creating good customer experiences and helping the business grow. 

Again, the RSR Research bears this out: 70% of retail winners place “high value” on workforce technology that allows them to respond quickly to support new business functions like BOPIS/BORIS and pop-up stores, while only 32% of all other retailers do. In other words, the retailers that have continued to shine and post record profits throughout the pandemic have made strategic technology investments focused directly on improving employee engagement—and found that it has a direct correlation to the CX and their bottom line. 

For retailers that may have implemented solutions almost overnight—without the ability to fully consider needs and technologies—now is the time to take a step back and determine whether you have the right technology in place to support your requirements and desired employee engagement levels.

And you won’t be alone! RSR cited that within the next two years, 52% of retailers plan to implement or improve their education and training capabilities; and 45% of them will deploy solutions focused on employee engagement. For instance, you might implement a learning management system (LMS) or upgrade an existing LMS to feature a mobile-first strategy (an initiative that only 20% of companies have chosen to not pursue). Another example is to deploy video training and real-time digital communications capabilities in breakrooms and training rooms to ensure your people will have the information they need to improve their skills, knowledge and interactions with customers. 

Regardless of which approach you take, prioritizing technology decisions to support greater employee engagement will boost your efforts to deliver a branded and satisfying CX. And, you’ll be well-positioned to respond to any new changes you see in shopping behavior or customer expectations