Mind the Gap – The Power of Productivity – Part Two of Three

“In the April – June period of 2017, productivity declined for the second consecutive quarter, with hourly output seeing a fall of 0.1 per cent”

For the retail sector, any drop in consumer spending and confidence is something that will inevitably set alarm bells ringing. The buying power of the general public is governed by a wide range of economic and seasonal factors, but a retail organisation’s ability to maintain competitive advantage relies heavily on persuading customers to shop, and moreover, maintaining their own productivity and output levels.

Staying ahead in such a competitive sector requires retailers to ensure they avoid becoming a casualty of productivity issues that continue to hamper economic growth in the UK. This means that businesses need to focus on enabling their entire workforce to carry out their jobs more efficiently, ranging from sales assistants in physical stores, to those managing customer service queries in the back office.

Part of this productivity challenge can be solved directly by attending to, and joining up, the consumer engagement journey more effectively, ensuring that customer needs are addressed efficiently from start to finish. Other key ingredients to narrowing this gap are noted in the post below…

Internal efficiency makes happy customers

Managing the customer engagement process in an efficient manner is essential to maintaining good performance and a positive reputation. For this to be possible the organisation needs to have a productive workforce, where roles are clearly defined and processes managed effectively.

Approaches to customer service should be joined up across the organisation, from the point of consumer product discovery to selection, purchase and repurchase and should apply to all members of staff, including store associates, contact centre representatives, and a retailer’s online self-service facility.

Raising productivity is not limited only to working out how to carry out current processes more efficiently, but how to encompass fresh approaches that enable retailers to better serve their customers. This means experimenting with new methods and technologies in the pursuit of greater employee output. After all, there is often a strong correlation between a positive employee experience and a good customer experience. Ensuring that workers are able to do their jobs in a manner that keeps them happy will enable the needs of customers to be addressed much more effectively.

Productivity and Optimising Tech

Retail is a sector that will feel the productivity deficit particularly acutely. Without a sufficiently productive workforce to meet these demands, retailers risk falling behind their more agile, innovative counterparts. Successfully leveraging existing technologies can go some way towards helping to reverse this negative trend.

The overall goal should be focused on making employees’ ability to properly serve the needs of customers as easy as possible, regardless of their role or function within the organisation.

Technology is already well-known for being a great enabler of business productivity, and it has truly revolutionised the way retailers communicate with their customers. Tech designed to make employees more productive is now pervasive throughout most businesses, much of which we have come to take for granted: email, cloud computing and database management software are just a few examples. The retail sector is no different, as recent years have seen the growth of CRM systems, automated customer service and chatbot technology among many others. Intelligent Guided Selling has formed the basis for many retailers roadmaps in a bid to tackle productivity head on.

In fact, productivity is a point at which a great Intelligent Guided Selling platform excels, going beyond simply persuading consumers to make purchases. On a shop floor, for example, this technology can reduce the disparity in product knowledge between different sales personnel, ensuring consistency in the quality of personalised advice given to prospective customers, and making sure that salespeople have a powerful resource with which to answer queries. Behind the scenes, such technology joins up the entirety of the buying process in real time, improving transaction speeds and reducing average handling times by Shorten the buying journey by aggregating all necessary information in one place. In such testing times for productivity, reaping these benefits can be instrumental in defining a retailer’s position in the market.

Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) are also promising to add further impetus to the pursuit of greater productivity, despite still being in the early adopter stage. Analyst firm Gartner has predicted that, by 2020, AI will begin to create more jobs than it makes obsolete, which allays a commonly-held fear that the technology will eventually supersede human input. Instead, the combination of AI and human intelligence, termed ‘AI augmentation’, will have the greatest impact, by complementing human employees and assisting them in doing their jobs more productively.

Diminishing returns

Productivity woes have been a key concern for the UK government and businesses for the past decade, with any growth recorded in this time being almost negligible.

“In the April-June period of 2017, productivity declined for the second consecutive quarter, with hourly output seeing a fall of 0.1 per cent”

Office for National Statistics

This followed a drop of 0.5 percent in the previous quarter and led to the Office for Budget Responsibility revising its overall productivity growth forecast for this year.

Productivity and the maintenance thereof is something retailers need to think long and hard about if they intend to thrive through this turbulent time. The choice is simple, continue to live precariously amongst these gaps in consumer confidence and productivity, or take matters into their own hands and make a positive change for the better?

We hope you enjoyed the second part of our Mind the Gap series! Remember you can also download the full paper, Mind the Gap: Overcoming the Consumer Spend and Productivity Squeeze’. Or, if you missed it, go back and read our previous post on The Consumer Spending Gap

Up next week, ‘Mind the Gap – The Rise of Intelligent Guided Selling’

To discuss any aspect of your guided selling strategy and technology, get in touch with our team here at Conversity, we’d love to hear from you.

The Conversity Team