retail employee frustrated using phone

5 Common Problems with Retail Communications and How to Fix Them

04 June 2021

Retail | Employee Experience

Poor store communications has always been a problem for retailers, but now it's become the elephant in the room.

When communication between retailers and store teams breaks down, employees don’t have a clear understanding of how they can actively contribute to company goals. Only 23% of executives feel that their company are excellent at aligning employee goals with company targets. 

Poor communication creates frustrated customers who don’t understand why store teams don’t have the answers they’re looking for, and frustrated employees who don’t understand why they haven’t been kept in the loop.

YOOBIC's 2021 frontline employee survey found that 36% of retail employees feel disconnected from their company. This level of disconnect makes it impossible for retailers to be pro-active and agile in a time when business survival depends on it. Plus, disconnected employees are unlikely to stick around for very long.

To tackle the communication crisis, we’ve pulled together the top 5 problems retailers run into when communicating with stores and how to fix them

Related: The Complete Guide to Retail Store Communications

 

Problem 1: Communications aren’t targeted

All too often retail communications consist of mass notifications and bulk emails about general company news. It’s not much use to a team member in one location to hear news about the refurbishment of a store 300 miles away, or to get a notification about the promotion of a team leader abroad. If employees consistently receive irrelevant updates, they’ll stop paying attention to communications altogether. 

How to fix it:

Divide employees into subsets based on role, location or any other criteria you feel influences what information they should receive. Send targeted communications to each group, only giving them the updates that are most relevant and useful to them. This might seem more time consuming at first, but it’s a lot more time consuming to have a workforce of employees who have stopped paying attention to company communications.

 

Problem 2: Communications aren’t delivered and understood

When the main source of information is one computer in the back office or a manager who passes on instructions from HQ, employees who aren’t on shift have to rely on others for information. With widely varying shift patterns, it’s rare that all employees will receive and understand all updates 100% of the time and it’s impossible for HQ to see who has received what information.

A trickle-down approach to communications - where the store manager receives updates to share with employees - is also not the right approach. That’s because information could be interpreted differently by different managers, leading to inconsistencies across stores. Employees who aren’t working when the manager is in could be left out of the loop altogether.

How to fix it: 

Deliver communications to each individual employee using a mobile app. 76% of frontline employees know they would feel more connected if they could access communications on a mobile device, yet only 54% are currently using a mobile device at work. Using a mobile device for communications will allow employees to receive updates on the shop floor and access information whenever and wherever suits them, helping them stay in the loop.

Ensure that the app has functionality to show read receipts, so that HQ have clear visibility into who has read each update. The best tools will also allow employees to instantly confirm whether instructions are clear, so that HQ can easily see whether info has been understood correctly.

Related: Pros and Cons of a BYOD Policy for Frontline Employees

 

Problem 3: Communication tools don't fit into the store associate flow of work

Store associates constantly have their hands tied on the shop floor. When they have to leave the floor and head to the back office to read updates from HQ and regional teams, they have less capacity for helping customers. On a Saturday morning when there are lines out the door, it’s all too easy to dismiss new emails with the intention to read them later, and then forget about them altogether.

Furthermore, when employees do receive instructions, if they then have to search for the paper sales report to send to HQ or navigate to another website to complete the new training assignment, time is lost switching between platforms and looking for the information they need.

How to fix it:

Centralizing all communications in one mobile app is the best way to streamline communication and maximize productivity. One app for communicating, training and managing tasks allows seamless transitioning between tasks as everything employees need is in one place, making it far more difficult for information and tasks to slip under the radar.

A mobile app also means that employees don’t need to leave the shop floor to receive new info, allowing them to work much more proactively with the knowledge that they are in the loop with the most up to date information.

Related: Why Frontline Employees Need a Unified Platform for Training & Internal Communications

 

Problem 4. Communications aren’t engaging

Long blocks of text on a monochrome webpage or piece of paper aren’t very inspiring or exciting. Employees need to engage with communications, not just skim read them and then push them out of their mind. 

How to fix it: 

To create communications that engage employees, they need to be fun and something employees will want to interact with. They also need to exude company culture and values, making employees feel like they’re part of a wider team. Use company branding in your communications and make sure to throw in elements that reflect your company culture. These could be phrases unique to your organization, animations, video messages from executives or campaigns and incentives that employees can get involved in.

You might decide to use gamification like challenges, competitions, quizzes and leaderboards to encourage teams to complete training, suggest ideas or complete the most tasks to perfection. Use company communications to share positive feedback, celebrate birthdays and congratulate high performers. Employees will be more motivated to engage with a communications platform where their contributions are recognized and actively encouraged.

Related: 3 Examples of Outstanding Internal Communications for Frontline Employees

 

Problem 5. Communications are a one way street

Traditional store communications are a one way street: HQ passes information to employees and they act on it. This is not a good dynamic. Employees have no way to communicate when they don’t understand instructions and HQ have no visibility into how well info has been received and implemented. 

How to fix it: 

Good communication structures aren’t a one way street or even a two way street; they’re more like a roundabout or a circular highway. There needs to be constant circulation of feedback from all parties. Retailers can create this by building feedback loops into communications, so that HQ can instantly receive feedback on how clear instructions are, store teams can receive instant feedback on how successfully tasks have been carried out, and store managers can receive instant audit feedback. A continuous feedback loop allows a company to constantly progress by drawing attention to new ideas and areas for improvement on a daily basis.

Related: 3 Benefits of Connected Frontline Employees

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To achieve their ambitious growth goals, fast-growing burger chain BurgerFi needed a way to instantly and seamlessly communicate with their 3000 employees across 130 locations, especially during the pandemic.

Find out how BurgerFi centralized store communications and team training in one place to keep their frontline teams informed, engaged and motivated! 

 

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