In addition to retail stores teeming with shoppers and sale signs on almost every rack, there's another ubiquitous holiday marker: the seasonal employee. According to the National Retail Federation, retailers are expected to hire between 640,000 and 690,000 seasonal workers to meet the 30 percent of annual sales targets this holiday season.
With such robust revenue goals riding on a well-trained and engaged workforce, we all might assume retailers are primed to support temporary workers. But reality often paints a bleaker picture, as anyone who has wandered into a bustling mall store can attest: great customer service is often the first holiday "gift" to be tossed aside.
With just a few weeks left in the busy holiday season, here are my three tips for crafting great customer service using learning technology now...and in the future.
1. Bring new employees up to speed as quickly as possible
It's vital that new employees learn the ropes of their new job quickly. Holiday shoppers are trying to squeeze in errands, school activities, office parties and travel. Well-trained employees who can best position new products, quickly track down inventory or recite return policies quickly can increase sales and brand loyalty.
How technology can help: When every minute your people spend on the floor is a potential customer service or revenue touchpoint, time is literally money. Consider implementing video, social and mobile into your learning experience to improve speed, efficiency and availability of training. Also, embrace informal learning and collaboration tools- they can unlock "native genius" and enable your more experienced workers to more quickly and socially share their knowledge and advice.
2. Personalize and target employee information
The last people who should be in the dark in your organization are the front-line employees. Got a last minute holiday floor set? Rolling out a new loyalty card? Make sure information flows quickly to your retail staff. Personalize training as much as possible. For instance, brand-new employees may not yet know how to demonstrate a product, but experienced employees do. Targeted training gets the right level of training to the right people, without distracting others.
How technology can help: With predictive and prescriptive analytics like those delivered by Saba's The Intelligence Mentor (TIM), you can identify knowledge gaps; offer personal and relevant recommendations and connections to help employees learn and perform better; and also create targeted and personalized campaigns that educate and engage team members on new products, promotions, etc.
3. Take the "pulse" of your organization
It may sound counter-intuitive to ask busy employees to take time to offer their thoughts during the holiday rush, but it's a great way to keep employees engaged and maintain a real-time pulse on what's happening at the front line so you can course correct with speed. Plus, employees who feel as if their opinions are valued develop into positive brand ambassadors within an organization, which leads to better business performance.
How technology can help: Real-time engagement and feedback tools like Saba Pulse 360 help create engaged employees, offering an always-on channel for employee feedback; quick and easy employee survey tools; real-time performance scores; and a way to reward and recognize your rock stars in the moment. And most importantly, technologies such as Pulse 360 can help managers stay in tune with employees; quickly diagnose issues and tune programs and processes; and tie the performance of their people to tangible business results.
And it's not too early to think about the 2017 holiday season! Your employees and your business are counting on modern talent programs and technologies to help them keep their skills fresh; stay up-to-date on company programs and policies; and better engage with their colleagues and the business.