Store Managers headache no.03
When will head office let me get on with my job?
Instant messaging, store operations and the blessing and curse of constant communication
For many retailers with multiple outlets, and any retailer with a wide store geography, international portfolio and a combination of direct and franchise operations, direct communication tools accessible via in-store tablets and mobile phones are a blessing of the highest order.
These software communication tools are being rapidly deployed and have many operational and social functions.
The most common and appreciated function is simply knowing “what on earth is happening in my stores!” As we all know even the best laid plans in head office can fail to materialise correctly in the real retail coal-face. Ignorance is certainly not bliss when the sales figures abruptly wake you from commercial complacency. So before addressing the problems it important to see what the problems actually are and it is still almost unbelievably common for many retailers simply not to be able to see what their stores look like.
The natural progression of this is using mobile tools to send directions and guidelines to stores to instruct the staff on what to change and how. An enormous capability is to develop this into a two way tool with guidance returned with evidence until the store looks exactly how it should.
The whole area of store guidelines continues to undergo a technological revolution and to transform the traditional creaking mind-set of heavy training and instructions delivered periodically into a more continuous drip-feed of relevant and easily digestible information.
Such mobile communication tools are at the forefront of the evolution.
However to every blessing there is usually the potential of at least one lurking curse ready to be unleashed on the unsuspecting.
The curses fall into one of two unsavoury varieties. Firstly the abuse, either wittingly or unwittingly of constant communication and secondly the tool itself becoming a distraction from the all-important instructions.
Being enabled doesn’t necessarily mean being efficient!
Being efficient doesn’t necessarily mean being effective!
And so with the blessing of in-time communication comes the weight of waist-of-time constipation. Not only for customers is the key to communication – relevance. It is the same for store managers. Communication to stores always should be monitored, channelled and edited to be effective. The problem now is that poor policing means the repercussions are much more intense and damaging. From the simple problem of paper mountains, to the seemingly inescapable inbox overload from irrelevant emails to a whole new world of literally continuous communication constipation.
With new technology comes the responsibility and opportunity to regulate messages by “relevance group” to eliminate the background interference for all operatives wherever they work, linked with the control of timing of communication instructions to priority actions, focusing less urgent directives to the relative downtime of the retail day.
With the blessing of store visibility comes the curse of permanent nit-picking. “How perfect does anything need to be” the answer being when it ceases to deliver increases sales and profit efficiencies. Instant access visibility should not be used just to enforce but to learn – to learn what actions make an impact to the bottom line and what actions don’t. This knowledge needs to be blended with a sensible appreciation of just how many hours are available in the working day to maximise available hours and not to fill those that don’t exist.
Efficiency will buy you time, but it certainly won’t create it.
With the blessing of fast actions comes the curse of instant inconsistencies, inefficiencies and downright bad retail practice. Just as a magnifying glass leaves no hiding place for blemishes whilst equally celebrating the beauty of detail, instant communication, actions and compliant stores leave nowhere to turn as an excuse for failure other than the retail fundamentals of the business itself.
Instant messaging is a tool, a fast tool. Its ultimate curse or blessing is that it simply facilitates corporate and commercial mistakes to be made in a quicker and more efficient way consistently across a wider range of stores.
So ensure the curse is turned to a blessing by stripping away the traditional excuse of store execution and using performance failures to improve your buying and assortment planning, your store operational inefficiencies, your customer experience shortcomings and your brand communication and promotional dynamics.
For good or bad instant messaging and communication allows instructions are carried out quickly at the retail customer interface.
Better for you the instructions are good rather than bad.
The bottom line?
Adopt this instant communications technology but use it as a lens to improve your wider retail business, not just your stores, and use it as an operational efficiency with realistic expectations of what can and should be done in a regular retail day.
Are you being unrealistic in what you ask stores to do?
Is a barrage of head office communication creating an inertia inside store teams?
VM-unleashed works with retailers and brands to bring sense and priorities to the communication of head office functions with stores, planning schedules and regimes for both the initiators and the implementers.
Firstly its important to understand how big a problem this might be for your business, why it it is happening and what other operations issues are compounding the problem.
VM-unleashed! has developed a store audit for this purpose… The “What on earth is happening in my stores audit?!”
This post is part of an ongoing series that will explore the vast array of store operational functions essential to commercial retail success, the importance of knowing how they are working for you, and the repercussions if they don’t.
For further questions and costs on retail operations audits then please feel free to contact us….
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