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How Pooling Labor Enhances Customer Experience

Part-time store associate working at a fashion boutique.

Retail will always be a business supported by the human touch – your associates on the store floor. Retaining experienced and knowledgeable staff in your stores is an essential component for driving in-store customer experience. In addition, keeping them fully engaged with your brand is critical to your overall success. 

Pooling store labor goes a long way in creating better quality jobs for your store part-time staff, particularly in off-peak seasons. While part-timers may receive 3 or 4 shifts per week during holiday, they are often reduced to 1 or 2 shifts per week when February comes. Pooling labor across stores offers you an actionable strategy to retain and incentivize them – your top performers.

Customer Experience (CX): How Is It Formulated?

In-store Customer Experience (CX) is driven by having quality, knowledgeable staff who understand your product and are advocates of your brand. They play a pivotal role in establishing how customers perceive your brand experience when they cross your lease lines.

Boston Retail Partners (BRP) and Chase Design have both recognized the value of a store associate in driving CX: 

“79% of consumer respondents said personalized service from a sales associate is an important factor in determining at which store they choose to shop.”

Boston Retail Partners, The 20th Annual POS/Customer Engagement Benchmark Survey

“75% of responses about positive shopping experiences were based on an associate helping to solve a problem”

Chase Design, Future Stores Miami 2020

Part-Time Store Associates and Product Knowledge: The Struggle

In the ramp-up to holidays, retailers recruit a number of seasonal associates to improve their store’s traffic: staff ratio during this peak period. Often recruited in late October, retailers invest time, energy, and money training these seasonal staff on processes, Product Knowledge (PK), and brand values. When the holiday season is over, they will often try to retain the best and the brightest of these new recruits by offering them part-time jobs with a zero or minimal hours guarantee.

During non-peak seasons, the ‘guaranteed’ or contract hours of full and part-time associates consume most, if not all, of the assigned labor budget. This leaves many part-time staff without the hours they need to support themselves. As a direct result, store associates will need to work at multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet, increasing staff turnover and affecting staff PK.

So what can retailers do to ensure part-time associates remain committed to their brands? 

One path is clear – provide your top-performing store associates with additional opportunities to work more hours by allowing them to work at multiple store locations whenever feasible. In other words, use pooled labor at your stores. Remember, more tenure equals higher product knowledge, and that is an essential ingredient in creating more positive shopping experiences.

Pooled Labor: Key to CX

The primary goal of pooling labor – or store pooled labor – in Specialty Retail is to create better quality jobs for your part-time staff by providing them with more meaningful opportunities. This, in turn, increases their commitment and tenure with your brand, which in turn increases PK and drives a more positive CX.

How customer experience is formulated? With more quality jobs that drives more staff tenure, which impacts in less turnover and more product knowledge. More product knowledge equals more customer experience.

Wherever possible geographically, allow your associates to be scheduled AND to pick up open shifts in multiple stores. This strategy is limited to urban areas where you may have multiple stores (or pop-ups) that an associate can get to easily.  

Pooled labor optimizes the use of your part-time staff while creating more desirable jobs and attracting better candidates. In addition, pooled labor increases overall staff availability at each store. A key hallmark of Specialty Retail is that half of a store’s weekly sales are generally done in 20 ‘peak’ hours. Identifying when these occur and scheduling to the peak is critical to success. Pooling labor increases your overall staff availability, allowing stores to more effectively schedule during these peak periods.

Pooled Labor: The Right Way

A part-time store associate smiling at her customer in a store.

To make this happen, a retailer should be able to share employees across geographically dense store groups – any shared employee is now part of your retail labor pool. The right retail labor tool or software will allow you to do so and, even more, it should provide you with guidelines to manage:

  1. which stores an associate can work in;
  2. what they are qualified to do in each store. A store associate may be a key holder in their home store, but not in their borrowed store(s);
  3. the duration that they will stay in the pool.

Once an associate is available to work across multiple stores, they are able to pick up additional shifts from multiple locations through modern shift posting or shift exchange applications on their mobile devices.

In today’s competitive retail landscape where CX will determine the winners from the losers, embracing pooled labor across your stores allows your part-time and casual staff to have better quality jobs. This, in turn, will increase tenure, engagement, and encourage your store associates to become fabulous brand ambassadors. Your customers will appreciate it!

StoreForce can help you to achieve your retail goals and labor planning effectiveness. Interested in learning more? Contact us and engage with one of our retail experts as to how we can future proof your overall retail store management.

Author:

StoreForce

Dave Loat is the President and co-founder of StoreForce. Dave has over 25 years of experience working with some of the best-known brands in retail and has incorporated these learnings into the StoreForce’s solution. He is truly passionate about store operations. Prior to StoreForce, Dave was a founding partner of Karabus Management, which grew to become the second-largest retail-specific consulting firm in the world. While at Karabus, Dave had the experience of working with over 100 retailers.

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