There’s no denying the past few years have been turbulent at best for retailers.

Since the beginning of 2020, the retail and consumer goods industry has faced a series of disastrous events: store closures and job losses during the pandemic lockdown; an abrupt shift to online shopping; employee exodus as a part of the Great Resignation; inventory shortages and delays due to supply chain issues; rising inflation as well as concern about a potential recession – not to mention the day-to-day challenges of just doing business.

Some Clouds – and a Silver Lining – for Retail Employees

Coping with a reduced workforce and increasingly complicated customer demands, customer-facing employees are experiencing high rates of burnout. Thirty-four percent of workers in consumer goods companies felt burned out due to the pandemic, compared to 28 percent in other industries, found a recent report by McKinsey.

Feeling overworked and undervalued, retail workers are more disillusioned than ever. Over the past year and a half, employee satisfaction in their first six months on the job dropped by 44 points, as reported to Medallia Insights.

It looks like this downward trend isn’t going away soon, either. The estimated share of employment in customer service and sales is estimated to drop by almost 10 percentage points in the United States and Europe by 2030, according to a projection by McKinsey, while in Asia, it might only grow by three percent.

Fortunately, the forecast isn’t all bleak. Ninety-four percent of retail employees still felt optimistic about the industry’s future, saying they believed the consumer goods business is evolving and reinventing itself, according to a 2021 Zipline study.

The key to coming ahead in this challenging retail era lies in elevating the employee experience (EX). Talented, engaged workers attract happy, loyal customers. Let’s explore some guidelines for ensuring sunny employee dispositions.

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The 3 E’s for Excellent Employee Experience

With staff interacting with customers on the sales floor and working from remote contact centers, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to improving the retail EX. However, there are many ways companies can support their workers and build engagement across the board.

1. Empower interactions

When decisions are being made at the top of the corporate pyramid, valuable input from frontline workers – those directly interacting with customers daily – can often be overlooked.

The opposite can be true, too. Suppose directions from headquarters don’t make it down to store associates and contact center agents. In that case, they can’t act on that information, resulting in poor performance and causing customer interactions to suffer.

Retail businesses need to establish clear lines of communication from the top to the bottom, and the other way around, to keep everyone engaged and purposeful.

Whether workers are in-store, at home, or working from the office, they need to feel they can connect with their colleagues in meaningful ways. A user-friendly communications and collaboration system keeps channels open, ensuring critical information is heard, and everyone feels aligned.

2. Equip employees with powerful technology

The right tools can go a long way toward alleviating the burden on overworked employees. Staff on the floor must be able to rapidly check inventory, access policies, and contact colleagues from a mobile device. Agents in contact centers need to readily track customer journeys, find answers to questions, and quickly transfer callers to other experts.

If your business hasn’t invested in unified communications and collaboration, employees can become trapped at any point in the process, wasting time and causing them – and the customer – frustration.

A quality collaboration system makes it easy for employees to access customer data and communicate with colleagues but also helps reduce unnecessary workloads. For example, a contact center equipped with AI can direct customers through simple tasks, leaving human agents free to help with more complicated concerns.

3. Enable growth

Unfortunately, retail work is just a job and not a long-term career for many employees. It may be difficult for entry-level employees to envision much growth beyond a level or two of promotion, leading to high turnover rates and low levels of engagement.

However, some of your best talent might be dealing with customers right now and, given the proper early support, could be future leaders in your organization.

Employees are much more likely to be engaged if they’re given career development and skill progression opportunities. Still, less than a quarter of associates said retailers were doing enough to retain talent and build an ambitious workforce, according to Zipline.

Training doesn’t have to be limited to formal, classroom-based lessons. Regular communications with mentors or activities over video calls can help employees grow their skills and envision a future career path with their company.

Employees who feel fulfilled by their work experience are more likely to stay and pay it forward by contributing to improved customer engagement and profitability.

While it may be a while until the consumer goods industry emerges from these turbulent times, there are glimpses of blue skies ahead.

There are many ways for retailers to support associates who feel stressed and underappreciated. Mitel solutions improve communications at all levels of business, from the stockroom to the contact center.

Learn how Mitel can help your employees weather today’s challenges and stormproof your retail business.

Is Your Retail Experience Exceeding Expectations? Raise the Value of Your Retail Communications. >

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