Getting Field Teams Out of Their Inboxes, and Into Customer Service

Getting Field Teams Out of their Inboxes, and Into Customer Service

Email, as a communication mechanism, has brought a lot to the table. For 30 years, the phone has had a digital ally – a buddy to take on some of the heavy lifting of mass communication in long form. Email is flexible, it’s familiar, and it’s easy, but – like the phone – it has limitations, particularly in business, and especially when business means providing an experience that keeps consumers personally engaged.

Managing store-level support

Because email is instantaneous, it’s often used within retail chains to disseminate information about a critical or important issue. For example, a Store Manager who is having issues with a malfunctioning POS machine might react by reporting issues to the Director of Ops, IT Support Manager and Area Manager. Each of these individuals might see the email immediately and begin to respond but it’s not uncommon that each recipient begins their own email thread, with new recipients asked to respond. Suddenly, resources from IT, Operations and Accounting are put to work on parallel efforts. Even worse, the people on the various threads of our example have had limited visibility into the issue, and may have no knowledge at all of other stores with the same problem. The seamless customer experience of payment is now in jeopardy.

Utilizing a web-based system designed to communicate problems or issues from the store – and resolution plans internally – has advantages over trying to adapt email to this specific POS issue example. The most obvious is increasing visibility – not only within the issue, to all of the participants, but across all issues and stores. Using integrated reports and filters to view single or multiple issues at once, and in detail, not only enables your organization to properly diagnose, plan and resolve singular occurrences, but also to identify systemic issues with improved employee engagement and productivity. Field employees are the front line of your brand; engaged field employees will provide better service to consumers.

Gathering store-level information

Store data is also often requested from the field via email. There are two problems inherent in the “email database” this creates: first, visibility is limited even further to store managers and field personnel with access to "The Inbox"; and second, collating hundreds of responses into anything useful is a time-consuming and error-prone process.

Deploying an actual web-based database makes the data more accessible and creates a shared knowledge asset comprised of the most accurate, up to date store profile data, allowing retail managers in every department to execute flawlessly, get to market faster, better understand the in-store experience and focus on customers. Store profiling tools such as AccuStore® enable retailers to send out survey data requests and compile answers in the centralized database. This site intelligence platform can also provide real-time reporting that a head office manager would have to manually create if compiling from email.

Tracking store-level execution

For the field team, inbox-driven task management has many of the same challenges as both 'bottom-up' and 'top-down' communication. Because the inbox is a 'holding area' for all sorts of messages, task-oriented requests can easily be missed or misfiled, fall off the radar, get pushed to the bottom of the screen by more recent messages, or worse – become completely unmanageable across a store distribution from a completion tracking standpoint.

New tools are emerging that refine task management and remove tasks from the Inbox. This technology ties goals and objectives – and meaningful measurements – to tasks. A built-in awareness of calendar and location provide more automated follow-up and accountability tracking—saving retail operations managers time by not having to search through email to follow-up and measure their field team’s performance. There is substantial time savings for the field teams as well, generated as much by process improvement as increased freedom from the ever-changing Inbox. That time, of course, can be spent connecting with their top priority—the customer.