The Unique Challenges Facing Retail Operations
There’s still a place for brick-and-mortar stores in our lives but no one can deny that they are facing fiercer competition and a more unpredictable future than ever. The only certainty is, if your physical stores aren’t operating perfectly your customers can find an alternative more rapidly and more easily than ever before. This demands operational excellence as a minimum. But, as always, that’s a lot easier said than done, so what are some of the major stumbling blocks standing in your way?
The standard retail model – although this is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all model – is that a retailer will have multiple franchisee stores served by a Head of Operations, or Head Office, base. The idea is, that the core services you provide out of your Head Office are scalable and transferable as you scale the number of franchisee stores that you serve. But how many retailers out there can truly claim to be operating like this?
Much more common, is to outsource store service operations to regional service partners while Head Office attempts to maintain a modicum of oversight. However, this causes a litany of problems. This disparate operational estate means that many organisations using this model are living with multiple helpdesks. When a store issue occurs, the store operator often has no idea which helpdesk to get in touch with. This becomes immensely time-consuming and frustrating for the store operator who has to spend time chasing various teams rather than focusing on their day job. It is also incredibly frustrating for the back-office teams who have to manually assign work to the right team. This drastically increases the cost of service and makes it almost impossible to retain control over the quality of service.
In addition, retail stores are often reliant on a long list of external vendors to run effectively. With a lack of oversight over the issues that are taking place and their resolution, it is impossible to gauge vendor activity and measure their performance against what has been contractually agreed.
What this all means is that we are seeing a turning tide in the retail sector as retailers are looking to digitally transform how they operate. The aim is to eliminate this long list of disconnected platforms in favour of a single, cloud-based solution to manage and maintain their stores. One popular solution has become the ServiceNow platform.
It is clear to see from the above that retail organisations need to consolidate their operations onto a single platform where they can manage all types of service requests regardless of which store is raising them. Using ServiceNow’s integration capabilities it is possible to connect employees, store operators, and 3rd party vendors all on the same platform. By consolidating onto the same platform, automated digital workflows can be built to assign work more efficiently and drastically improve service delivery. In addition, assets are fully populated and can be associated with a named vendor so that it is possible to track issues and requests against specific vendors and make sure they are performing against all contracted KPIs and SLAs.
However, as evident as it is that this is a powerful solution, the question on the lips of any retailer is going to be, what are the implications to the business?
A transformation as extensive as this is always going to have significant implications for any business. For a business like a retailer who has to survive on low margins, perhaps these implications are even more significant.
The metrics that matter to most organisations are customer satisfaction and cost of service. So how does the solution above feed into these key metrics?
In this context, your ‘customers’ are your store operators. Giving your store operators a single, intuitive portal for them to consume the services they need to perform their jobs removes a huge amount of friction and allows them to focus on what matters, operating their stores. The implication of this is a direct boost to the company’s top line. If store operators have more time to focus on how their stores operate, they are going to be better at shifting stock and collecting revenue. So, better service leads to a better experience for store operators, which leads to more productive stores, which results in higher revenue.
But what about the back-office?
Now all stores use the same consistent, standardised services. This means the information collected from your store operators is controlled and predictable allowing you to resolve issues a lot faster by replacing manual work with automated workflows. As a consequence, agent productivity shoots up, significantly reducing your cost of service. Not only does this have a big impact on your bottom line but it also frees up your IT team to focus on further innovation that continues to enhance the services you provide.
So what’s the conclusion?
When you trace the implications and the benefits all the way through, it is clear that not only does your revenue increase, but your costs are also reduced. As I keep mentioning, in an industry highly influenced by low-margins, this has the potential to be an absolute game changer.