Retailers: Email is Killing Your Stores' Ability to Execute Your Go-To-Market and Customer Service Strategy

Sundar Ranganathan, CTO, Reflexis Systems, Inc.
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Sundar Ranganathan, CTO, Reflexis Systems, Inc.

Sundar Ranganathan, CTO, Reflexis Systems, Inc.

“We have met the enemy, and he is us.” That’s a famous quote from the comic strip “Pogo” by cartoonist Walt Kelly. Popular during the 1960s, Kelly was commenting on how humans are often the cause of their own woes in the world. To which I would add retailers could just as easily say, “We have met the enemy, and it is email.

Email was invented in 1972. Many retailers continue to use email to communicate all kinds of tasks, communications, and projects to stores. Any decent sizedretailer expects stores to execute a wide variety of tasks, many of which are specific to a store or group of stores, department within a store, functional role within a store, and so on. From working with our customers who have multiple brands and different departments in stores, I’ve learned that in just one week, stores are expected to complete the following types of tasks:

• IT projects such as improving systems or upgrading networks, with technicians arriving at different times, including overnight, over several days at various stores
• Launching a new department and product specific planograms tied to seasonal buying patterns
• Loss Prevention training sessions such as updated visitor control policies and cash handling
• Contests, announcements, recalls, customer surveys in the aisles, and oh yes, last-minute changes to all of the above

  If You Use Email to Communicate Corporate Tasks such as New Product Introductions, Promotions, Training, and Other Activities, You Are Strangling Your Stores. Here’s Why You Need to Switch to Task Management Software. 

Here’s how email strangles your ability to execute all of the above types of tasks as intended, while also impeding your ability to meet your customer service goals:
• Communications overload to store managers besieged by non-prioritized emails, corrective emails, forwarded emails, “forwards of forwards,”and more. Store managers waste time going to multiple places trying determine what to do and searching for the latest information: in addition to their inboxes, add conference calls, intranets, 3-ring binders, paper reports, and direct calls from regional managers.

• Inability of corporate, regional, and store managers to track completion status in real time and manage by exception to identify and correct areas of underperformance and missed deadlines

• Difficulty in streamlining communications to target specific information to the right stores and roles, resulting in inefficiency due to information being blasted to everyone in the retail chain, whether it pertains to them or not.

• Lack of two-way feedback to help the retailer respond to trouble areas in mid-stream and correct future mis-steps. Suggestions for improvement usually disappear into a black hole and are not used to drive continuous improvement.

• Inability to efficiently monitor compliance to a variety of Loss Prevention, safety, Human Resources, store appearance, and other policies and across all stores and rapidly correct areas of detected non-compliance

Retailers across all categories have solved these problems by implementing retail task management and store auditing solutions. Here’s how:

• Store managers view a daily, prioritized to-do list on their desktops or mobile devices. They instantly know what to do and when, with all required information in one place.

• Instead of last minute, incomplete emails from every corporate area, corporate gatekeepers can view the workload impact of tasks and balance their launch and due dates in alignment with retail strategy.

• Corporate, regional, and store managers can track completion status in real-time in color-coded charts to manage by exception and correct areas of non-compliance.

• Distribution lists based on brands, departments, roles, and store attributes simplify the creation and communication of specific information to the right people. Others in the organization aren’t bothered with tasks that do not pertain to them.

• Closed-loop, two-way feedback to pro-actively respond to trouble areas. Corporate planners can view post-completion survey responses to support continuous improvement.

• Retail store auditing on mobile devices enables efficient and fast identification of compliance issues. When detected, the StoreWalk application automatically assigns best practice corrective action to the right role in the store; the assigned task is tracked to completion in Task Manager.

If you are still using 1970s technology to communicate tasks to stores, I would ask: what would you rather have your best sales-people — your store managers — doing? Reading emails in an office or directing associates and helping customers in the aisles. Many of your retailer peers have implemented task management and seen the benefits of increased sales, task completion status increased from 40 percent to 95+ percent, 100 percent recall completion in hours, 20 percent increase in time store managers can spend on the sales floor, and much more. So what are you waiting for? Do you want to help stores succeed? Or would you prefer to continue to use technology that makes your store operations group your company’s own worst enemy when it comes to executing your go-to-market and customer engagement strategies.

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