Ceridian generic retail storeThere are many reasons why companies use workforce management tools to collect and process more information about their workforces. By having effective tools for workforce management, businesses are able to evaluate the way they serve customers, which over time can improve consumer loyalty and lead to more profits.

I recently discussed this principle in a webinar entitled “Retail Store Employees in the Customer Age.” I sat down with Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at Retail Systems Research, to discuss the effect that workforce management can have on retail sales.

RSR’s research found that despite the recent growth of omni-channel avenues for completing sales, brick and mortar stores remain the predominant setting for doing business. The firm found that over 90 percent of sales are still consummated in stores.

Furthermore, store employees make all the difference in completing transactions. A retailer’s location, ambiance and prices are of course important, but receiving quality service from on-site employees remains the greatest factor influencing buyers’ decisions. As a result, merchants everywhere are looking to find employees who better cater to customers’ needs. Among companies polled about improving their customer service, 82 percent told RSR the endeavor has “become more important to us” within the last three years, while only 2 percent said it’s become less important.

A variety of roles

The term “customer service” doesn’t just apply to people operating help desks and call centers. In the retail, sector, the employees who serve customers are usually the same ones who play hands-on roles in completing sales. RSR found that 41.8 percent of all customer service in retail comes from salespeople, while 34 percent comes from cashiers and 4.9 percent is from sales supervisors and managers.

RSR emphasized that skilled labor is important in retail sales. A majority of those companies polled – including 64 percent of the fashion and short life cycle industry, and 63 percent in durable and hard goods – said that they deliver high-touch customer service strategies, and skilled employees are critical. In most cases, workers require special skills and training to be effective.

Technology changing the game?

In this age of modern technology, it’s worth noting that the purchase value chain has changed. Today, consumers are relying on on-line product details and reviews and see the role of the in-store associate in providing product knowledge noticeably declining. When asked in 2010 to name the most important influences on the buying process, 21 percent said store associates – a year later, only 13 percent gave that answer. People are beginning to turn away from employees and read online reviews instead – 63 percent said they now act based on what they read online.

That doesn’t mean store employees are no longer relevant. On the contrary, many people still distrust online content and prefer to receive their sales guidance from real people. Consumers may have predisposed and informed ideas coming into the stores, but the store employee is the closer and up-seller. Furthermore, technology and subjective human judgment can work together to influence buying and selling habits.

Having strong service oriented personnel is still the key to thriving in retail today, despite recent developments in technology. Workforce management solutions can help companies manage their sales teams more effectively.

Click here to listen to the webinar.