Poor Internal Communication has a Trickle Effect in Retail
Looking to improve your retail teams communication tends to be one of those goals that, for a multitude of reasons, winds up getting perpetually pushed further and further down your to-do list as daily tasks arise, work-related issues pop up, and customers need service. As you know, managing a retail business is hectic enough as it is without somehow finding time to revamp or even evaluate how you and your team communicate.
Perhaps you’re bogged down by the amount of work you have going on. Or you’re really focusing on stepping up your marketing game. You might even be streamlining your operation by upgrading some key back-end systems. Alas, your good intentions to turn to your company’s communication have sadly not been realized. At least not yet.
Consider the fact that communication problems in the workplace can often be the root of so many other issues, and you might want to rethink your decision to push this particular goal aside for an undetermined number of weeks or months. The way you and your team connect to each other has a tremendous impact on a variety of critical elements throughout your retail operation.
Check out our Guide to Communication for Retail Teams
Even if you are able to survive or even thrive without effective communication in the workplace, imagine how much stronger your business would be performing if you solved that problem going forward. Until you address the underlying issue, you will never know how high your company can soar.
So let’s investigate some of the ways in which poor communication in the workplace is likely holding your business back.
You do your best to take good care of your products, but every once in a while, something can go wrong, leaving your products damaged. Most distressingly of all, this — in nearly all cases — occurs due to a situation that could have been easily avoided. Maybe the products weren’t received on time and suffered due to weather conditions. It could be they weren’t properly packaged or were otherwise neglected by your team.
If you had a reliable communication system in place, you could have avoided this altogether. But, as it stands, your business will likely end up having to endure the lost profits that the damaged products would have brought you. This is a prime example of how communication and planning ahead can save you bundles.
Return to Seller
No retail manager ever wants to face a customer returning products back for a refund. Still, it happens — often through no fault of your own — and you need to be ready to process these requests when they come in. How you handle these, of course, will differ greatly based on whether your business conducts sales online or in a brick-and-mortar location.
In any case, you need a smooth and easy way to connect with your teammates to ensure that they handle return requests quickly and professionally. The more finesse you use in these situations, the better chance you’ll be able to retain that given customer’s patronage going forward. Alternatively, the worst message you can send is to offer a delayed response or never tending to the customer at all.
Dress for Success
If your retail operation deals in selling clothes, you almost certainly have at least one dressing room on the premises. How you and your team coordinate assisting customers in this part of your store is absolutely imperative. You have two key scenarios in which you need to ensure that your team is attending to customers.
In the first, the customer is waiting outside the dressing room for a team member to let them into one to try on their selected items, and in the second, the customer is in the dressing room already trying on items and requests your assistance. In either case, you’re dealing with a customer who is particularly vulnerable and is waiting on your team to allow them to continue shopping.
Inventory is obviously key for your business. Without enough products on your shelves, you set yourself up for the unfortunate situation of having customers but not enough products to sell them. To prevent this, you need a communication system in which you and your team can ensure that items are restocked on schedule. This may involve not only updating your website or physically adding items to your shelves but also ordering more items from vendors and then receiving those shipments for evaluation and placement.
The tricky part of this process is how many departments from within your business it may involve. But if it isn’t completed on time, your customers will just take their business elsewhere and think twice before shopping with you, as your restocking habits have proven unreliable.
The Main Events
Every retailer knows that you have only a few chances to really leverage sales events. Most notably, many companies rely heavily on Black Friday to cement their profit margins before the end of a given year. Likewise, tax-free days, holidays and flash sales provide opportunities for you to connect with customers and greatly boost your sales numbers.
But getting ready for these events is an ordeal in and of itself. You need to coordinate with your team across all departments to get your store or site ready for the incoming rush of customers. That takes, as you may have guessed, an outstanding communication to keep every task moving forward. Otherwise, you will encounter misunderstandings, mishaps and countless errors along the way, none of which bode well for your sales prospects.
Some of the situations we’ve discussed tie into the importance of customer service. However, this is not something we can ever really overemphasize. So let’s touch on it one more time. To keep your customers coming back for more, you need to ensure that you’re providing a level of service that will entice them to buy your products again and again in the future.
To do so with everything else that goes into running a retail operation can be a major challenge, but with the right communication tool on your side, you can coordinate this with relative ease. The most important thing to achieve with your customers is to make sure they feel listened to and made a priority. Considering that your business wouldn’t exist without them, they definitely should be.
Call to Retention
Just like your customers, your employees want to be acknowledged too. So, while you’re considering how your communication system is tailored to the customer experience, don’t forget to also include your team members as well. If you have a system in place that is unreliable, this will affect your employees’ morale.
They’ll be frustrated, have to deal with irate customers and get berated for not tending to certain tasks sooner. In short, your team members need to be able to communicate with each other (and you to all of them) just as much as you all need to connect to your employees. If you want to hold on to your workers and prevent them from searching for less hectic work elsewhere, address your communication tool ASAP.
Your tools can limit you in a variety of ways, and if you’re still working with outdated technology like walkie talkies, your business is far, far behind the times. In fact, you probably contend with many of the situations we’ve already mentioned, just by sheer virtue of the fact that you’re counting on an antiquated tool to help you keep your productivity up.
Once you’ve gotten a taste of what more modern solutions can do, you’ll never go back to your old processes and will finally be able to enjoy the benefits that most of your competitors are already using to stay ahead of the market, deliver quality service and ensure that their team collaboration is first-rate. You can no longer afford to stick to your old way of doing things. The time to update is now.
All of the above challenges may test your retail team productivity at various points, but once you have the proper communication procedures in place, you’ll be ready to tackle them as soon as possible and minimize any damage to your bottom line. It’s amazing how one part of your business operation can have such far-reaching ramifications.
You may have never even thought about how your company’s communication system could be affecting your day-to-day tasks in such impactful ways. Hopefully, we’ve helped you understand how vital communication is to building your company for future success.
Every aspect of your business is connected to one another in a detailed tapestry that extends from your management of your team to their relationships with each other to their connection with your customers. If the messaging between any of these groups becomes skewed, overlooked or otherwise fails to serve its purpose, confusion and therefore disaster will inevitably follow.
Even if you can’t control the outcome on every single occasion, you can at least rest assured that your business will be able to minimize the chances that something will go awry in your business. When it does, your team’s morale may suffer, as will your customers’ faith in your team and, accordingly, your product or service.
Retail sales employees already have enough to handle, as you well know. Worrying about communication shouldn’t be one of them. So don’t delay in taking a closer look at how well your system works and be open to starting over, especially if this benefits your customer experience.