With the aftereffects of “The Great Resignation” looming like a winter storm cloud, hiring and retention continues to pose a major challenge.
Retailers find themselves all competing for a slice of the very limited labor market like siblings competing for the last slice of pumpkin pie. According to reports from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 10.1 million job openings nationwide; that fact is glowing like a string of lights for retailers heading into the holiday season.
Right now, big-box retailers are working to hire thousands of seasonal employees. That’s pretty par for the course, but there are a number of factors that make this holiday unique.
Time to Hunker Down: Why This Holiday Season is Different
Retailers are facing an enormous backlog of inventory left over from supply chain challenges earlier this year. To unclog their supply chain, retailers kicked off holiday sales sooner than usual, encouraging holiday shoppers to make their purchases as early as September. To support this rapidly approaching – and very long – holiday shopping season, retailers are making big anticipatory pushes to hire a seasonal workforce.
This means retailers must perform a juggling act as economic uncertainty looms, competition grows fiercer, and consumer expectations surge. To add even more pressure, the holiday season performance will likely be an indicator of the economic trends of the coming year. This pressure ultimately falls on the retailers themselves, who in turn put that same pressure on their employees to perform.
Luckily, amongst all the hustle and bustle and stress of the season, there’s a clear solution. Because employee performance plays an increasingly impactful role in the customer journey, employee satisfaction is critical to business success. If retailers want a successful holiday season to launch them into the new year, they’ll need to treat seasonal employees with care.
Historically, seasonal employees have been considered disposable, and were both overworked and overlooked. Now, retailers can’t risk treating any employee as disposable, not only because there’s no guarantee that there will be another hire immediately ready to take their place, but also because of their critical role in the customer experience (CX) and brand reputation.
So how will retailers balance the importance of creating an extraordinary overall brand experience that now includes not only the customer experience element but also the employee experience?
Employee Journey Orchestration: The Gift that Keeps on Giving
CX is truly the currency of competition, as customers consider it just as important as price or quality as a purchasing driver. Consumers are faced with an increasingly overwhelming market of choices, all with a similar product catalogue.
When the shopping experience and brand interactions are intentional and tailored, brands are more likely to make an impact, and shoppers are more likely to convert into loyal customers. Brands have taken note, and consumers are being served extraordinary, sophisticated experiences across many industries. Now, customers have come to expect that level of CX excellence with every shopping experience, on every channel.
That level of expectation can be suffocating, and it would be easy for businesses to falter in the face of everything there is to juggle. So, what can be the bow on top of the customer experience gift? To create an excellent customer experience, brands must first optimize their EX.
This sounds like a daunting task, especially when you consider all of the steps on the employee journey; but this is where digital tools come into play.
Like the customer journey, the employee journey is best understood and achieved by getting the full picture from the beginning to the end, something that now be easily tracked. Once the employee’s journey (including training, employment duration, feedback, customer interactions, and touchpoints with management) is mapped out, brands can then pinpoint if an employee is at risk of leaving or needs to course correct on performance.
Employers can then begin to repair and personalize that journey to support the employee and help them deliver results. Digitalization, AI, and automation all play a part here: by helping a single employee become more impactful and bring more value to the brand and to the customer when they have the support of those digital tools.
Employee satisfaction, once achieved, has a direct correlation to customer satisfaction. Every employee, from web developers to cashiers, plays a role in a customer’s experience. Whether it’s directly or indirectly, a happy and higher-performing employee will be able to better assist a customer and, inevitably, drive higher sales.
When brands strengthen employee education and training around the perception and understanding of the brand, the employee can better represent the organization to the customer and personalize customer touchpoints.
One of the new ways we see employees having an impact on the customer experience is the rapid diversification of channels and all the new ways to shop. Before, an employee in charge of the website would only have an impact in that one space, but now customers are clicking through everywhere from email promotions to Instagram.
Employee learning is as important as snow chains on tires – understanding the brand and the customer is critical to ensure that all new interactions are personalized and meaningful.
With EX and CX guiding the way, retailers are sure to find their way to the summit and enter 2023 triumphantly.