A recent Wall Street Journal article titled ‘No Shoes, No Mask, No Service? Businesses Now Write the Rules on Face Coverings’ made me realize that getting store communications right is going to be more important than ever as regulations begin to relax and people slowly return to their normal routines. As states such as Texas remove the official mask mandate, businesses are left to write their own rules.
The article reads, “A patchwork of reactions at businesses large and small will likely define the American consumer experience over the next several months. Best Buy, Target and other major firms have responded by reinforcing Covid-19 rules already in place, while other executives have said the masks can come off. The commercial, rather than the political, arena could very well determine how much our lives look like a return to normal in the coming months.”
The pandemic has already taken a massive toll on frontline workers who have put their health and safety at risk to serve customers. This new gray zone will only make things more difficult. Whether you have a brand-wide mask policy across all your stores or allow each store to follow local mask guidelines, your associates will be in the firing line, forced to either deal with customers that refuse to wear masks or those angry because they don’t feel safe in a store without a mask requirement. How well these employees are trained to respond when customers demand answers is the difference between keeping a customer or losing one for good.
Unfortunately, training for frontline associates isn’t as simple as training desktop workers. Frontline associates are often part-time and when they’re not on the clock in your store, they’re at school or taking care of families. They must be compensated for their time so most of their training, once they begin their jobs, takes place on the floor in small pre-shift meetings or in the backroom via posters or binders of information.
So how can you be sure that critical information is understood by everyone, from upper field down to store associates to ensure a consistent store experience for your customers? It boils down to three key best practices.
Provide a single source of information
To get all your field employees on the same page, you need a single source of information for a store team’s live-long documents, like policy and procedure, best practices, performance review criteria, on boarding, marketing standards and training videos. It’s the modern-day version of ‘the binder’ but it can be updated in real-time, contain multiple content types and be targeted to the user.
When done well, retailers can avoid confusion in the field that results from rogue comms tools and apps like Reddit, SnapChat etc.
Zipline’s Resource Library is a game changer. Here’s what makes it different.
- HQ publishers have the ability to target materials by role, store type, or region so everyone sees only what’s relevant to them.
- Zipline makes it easy to add multimedia (like embedded video) and customize the look and feel of the Resource Library, without requiring extra IT work.
- All information housed in Resource Library- from PDFs to videos, e-learnings to metrics dashboards - is automatically optimized for mobile access. Retailers that have a personal device policy in place can enable frontline workers to access information from the palm of their hand - not the backroom computer.
- Resource Library is unique in that it’s built to be search primary. Most employees will tell you - search in enterprise software sucks! But our CTO and co-founder helped build Yahoo search, and we’ve worked hard to make our search just as effective as Google. When finding information is a snap, pulling up reference documents or training videos is something that can happen out on the sales floor, in-between helping customers, thus maximizing the limited number of hours these employees spend on your payroll.
Break your training into bite-sized pieces
Learning has changed in the internet era. People, especially Gen Y and Gen Zers, just don’t have the patience to digest long-form content. As a result, retailers need to deliver communication in more digestible and bite-sized ways, so stores aren’t spending a half an hour reading our messages. It’s about establishing a consistent stream of digestible information. Think of a fire hose; instead of drinking out of a blasting stream of water, how do you reduce the flow so that it's more of a constant stream that is more predictable—not to mention more enjoyable to drink out of.
Here’s how Zipline makes it possible:
- Zipline is built to drive meaningful, predictable routines at the Associate level. Our co-founder understood the power of repeatable behaviors in stores and saw first-hand how these routines drove efficiency at scale. That’s why Zipline’s publishing interface makes it easy to “bundle” messages into a predictable daily (or weekly, depending on the needs of your business) cadence. Instead of peppering store teams with bits and pieces of information throughout the day and week, bundling helps drive adoption and readership through clarity.
- Zipline allows retailers to target information by role. There’s no bigger waste of time for associates and store leaders than trying to sift through messages trying to understand what is applicable and what isn’t. Zipline ensures that communication and tasks are only sent to the people that need to know and act so as not to confuse the entire fleet.
Remember how infuriating it was as a kid to be told, ‘because I told you so’ when you asked why you were being asked to do something? This doesn’t change when we become adults. We all want to know how the work we are being asked to do benefits the greater good.
That’s why Retail Zipline is the only solution on the market that combines communication and task management so field workers always have the context behind requests. We know that context is what gives meaning to work so we built Zipline to ensure that field workers always get the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. As a direct result, Zipline customers have better store execution than non-customers.
Want to learn more about how Retail Zipline can help you align your store teams? We've made our solution easy to implement, fun to use, and useful for stores and HQ alike. We’d love to give you a deeper look. Reach out today to learn more.