Why this guide?
Communication and proper execution of programs, brand standards and operating procedures remains a pain point the for retail and hospitality industries. As a retail or hospitality business expands or becomes more geographically diverse, the physical separation that exists between sites and head office makes communication and engagement increasingly challenging.
When communication breaks down, sites can become unaware or confused about how to implement brand standards, comply with operating procedures, or execute programs in the areas of operations, merchandising, health and safety or security. What is more, head office may be unaware of questions, concerns, and issues from the field that need attention.
The good news is that there are strategies and tools to help you improve communication and execution. The ability to communicate with and hear back from sites matters.
If your current organizational communication process is a pain point that needs solving, this comprehensive guide to communication is for you!
|The Cost of Poor Communication|
|How to Improve Site Communication and Execution|
|Common Communication Types|
|Communicate in Person with Site Visits|
|Moving Forward with Site Communication and Execution|
The cost of poor communication
Poor communication results in poor execution and poor execution can have a major impact on the bottom line. Marketing and merchandising is often responsible for driving revenue growth, and as a result, hospitality, retail and CPG’s spend between 10-24% of total company budget on marketing. That is a large investment of your resources.
An astonishing 90% of Consumer Goods companies report frustration with compliance (restock, promotional execution, employee product knowledge, correct pricing).
Forty-nine percent of all planned retail displays are missing; 60% are executed improperly. This affects your bottom line: companies loose as much as 25% of their revenue due to substandard execution.
How to improve Site communication
Communication between sites and head office often breaks down due to the choice of communication platform. Operators often default to familiar platforms such as email, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, or phone calls for communication with sites. Though widely accessible, these communication channels are not designed to be bi-directional, actionable, or traceable corporate communication.
Too many communication tools cause confusion; your employees need to know where to go for essential resource files, guidelines, tasks and feedback.
The first step is to streamline your communication process. While your process may still include email and phone communication, your communication should not be primarily reliant on them.
Make a list of essential need for communication and execution; form example a content management system, task management software to assign and track completion, instant messaging for quick communication, KPIs to get everyone on the same page and focused on the same goals. Bindy is a cloud-software solution made for retail and hospitality communication and execution that addresses these needs out of the box.
Whether you are communicating with one site, a group of sites, or all your sites, keep the process consistent. Predictability is essential and necessary to get the buy in from sites and set response expectations. For instance, use the same method/platform every time to communicate tasks that require immediate attention (product recall, hazardous situation, essential system disruption).
The more you standardize and centralize communication, the more effective it will be.
Make Communication bi-directional
Communication must go both ways. We can’t emphasize this enough: your sites, franchisees and managers need to communicate with you. District or regional managers provide one essential link between head office and sites. However, district managers may only be in their sites once every three weeks. Without hearing from your sties, how can you know what challenges they face and what steps you can take to help?
From head-office to Sites
Head office needs to communicate information to all/some sites, in all/some regions.
This information travels “downward” and may be used to announce upcoming seasonal programs, in-store initiatives, product recalls and planogram changes.
Some are “actionable” (require the recipients to complete an action) while others are simply informational.
From Sites to head-office
Sites (typically the franchisee, manager, or assistant manager) often need to ask questions, raise concerns or document issues with head office.
This information travels “upward” and is often actionable as it requires Head Office to acknowledge receipt, take and action and communicate the outcome back to the site.
Where there is no automation in place, this is often accomplished by email or by calling a support hotline.
CENTRALIZED TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION
The solution is communication software that centralizes communication and works in both directions.
It works whether information travels upward or downward, whether a communication packet is actionable or not and whether it concerns one site, one group of sites or all sites.
MAKE Communication A part of company culture
According to a Gallup Poll, employee engagement averages less than 33%. Good communication is one of the most important factors for fostering engaged employees. Be specific about company goals, responsibilities, expectations, and organizational changes. Being clear cultivates trust.
When it comes to solving a problem or implementing policy change, solicit feedback, especially from your front-line employees. There is power in understanding what and how your employees think and soliciting their feedback helps them feel valued. Feeling valued is the number one driver of engagement and employee satisfaction.
Choose a platform your employees can easily access with your information all in one place. The same resources should be available on any device at any time. Doing so makes it more likely your front-line employees will engage.
Last, all employees should have access. If you choose a software platform for your site communication and execution, be mindful of platforms that charge by the user; this will drive up your costs of getting all employees on board. Bindy features unlimited users and sites with most plans. Get everyone on board without paying more.
Employees that can’t access a platform miss announcements, essential information and are less empowered to problem solve on their own. This thwarts communication and works against awareness and proper execution. Remember, your customers do not care if an employee works 4 hours per week or 40 hours, every employee is a brand ambassador.
Common Communication Types
Accessible and streamlined communication can have valuable returns for your business. Now let’s look at some essentials all organizations, whether you have two or 2,000, sites, should communicate. We have broken down our communication suggestions into two categories: merchandising and operations.
Technically, the category of retail merchandising comprises everything a customer perceives when they encounter your store: window displays, lighting, store layout, signage, product display, POS promotions. Your layout and merchandising operating procedures should be comprehensive: When should displays be updated? What type of lighting is expected in fitting rooms? How should products be placed on shelves?
Merchandising is so important, we have an entire category dedicated to merchandising on our blog to help you with merchandising best practices. We also have how to’s and checklists to help you conduct merchandising audits or update your merchandising standards.
Here, we want to focus on two components that should be included in any merchandising policy and readily communicated because they are known revenue drivers: branding and promotions.
Retail expert Francesca Nicasio notes that a compelling brand “attracts great people to your company, promotes loyalty, and increases sales.” In fact, the average revenue increase attributed to presenting a brand consistently is 23%! Therefore, it is essential you communicate your brand guidelines and standards.
Companies spend an average of 19% of their total gross revenue on promotional campaigns. Successfully executing a promotional campaign encompasses numerous moving parts and departments. Getting everyone on the same page, out of their silos, and into collaboration mode can be a challenge.
This is where a store communication platform can really help. The right platform will give employees a place to easily access, share, comment on, give feedback, and check off tasks required to make your campaign a success.
Employees want to know what is going on within the organization. As noted above, sharing the organization’s KPIs with employees cultivates a culture of engagement. Employees want to know how the organization is doing, what the organization’s goals are, and what their role is in contributing to achieving corporate objectives.
Employees want training! In fact, 63% of employees believe learning new skills and receiving special training is essential to career advancement. Effective training is ongoing. Entrepreneur recommends optimizing development by setting achievable quarterly goals. Quarterly goals are easier to see and promote a sense of accomplishment. They can also help you identify weak areas more quickly for correction.
If you worry that quarterly goal setting would take too much time to set up and track, Entrepreneur recommends automating the process to track and measure performance. Choose a platform that offers you a smart checklist or task management. Employees can review goals, mark accomplishments, and give feedback. Managers can run reports to quickly see who is on track and what areas need attention.
Customer service standards
According to the Harvard Business Review, it is five to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Sixty-eight percent of customers will not return if the customer service is poor and the staff is perceived as indifferent.
Get to know your customers and guests and tailor your service standards to meet their service expectations. Standards and expectations can change, so ensure your employees have ready access to the training and service standards they need to meet customer expectations. Unsure where to start? See our blog, “How to Improve Customer Service Standards.”
Loss prevention policies
Your employees are the ones who carry out your security policies. Clearly document and provide your LP policies and procedures to all employees. Sean Sportun, Security & Loss Prevention Manager at Circle K, observes, “if employees understand what is being asked of them and training remains relevant and relatable, the organization will experience an enhanced level of compliance. Proper training increases the odds of success and builds a lasting safety & security culture.”
Nicasio recommends telling and showing. “Let’s say you have specific measures for cash handling. You’ll want to verbally communicate them during training, but you (or an experienced member of your team) should also demonstrate the process to your new hires and supervise them during the first few times they carry out the task.” She also recommends printing your guidelines in places employees converge (stockroom, behind the counter, back-office). New threats come up so ensure updates are communicated clearly.
Health & Safety
The cost of non-compliance with health and safety policies and protocols is rising, increasing by 45% since 2011. Costs include settlements, business disruption, and productivity loss which means a loss in revenue.
In a recent survey in the construction industry, 75% of respondents blamed lack a of knowledge as the reason for non-compliance. There are many hazards in the retail workspace, most of them are behind the scenes. Stocks rooms, loading docks, entry/exits, fire hazards, and broken pallets are common safety concerns for retailers.
Non-compliance has seen the number of food safety recalls rise by 22% between 2015 to 2016. The price tag per food recall averages $10 million. Additionally, employees need to know how to respond if they or a customer is injured in store or if a weather emergency requires attention.
Prevention is best, and Safety and Health Magazine estimates a return between $2-6 for every $1 invested in injury prevention! Avoid injuries, legal fees, and business disruption by communicating your health and safety policy. Use our sample checklist to update your health and safety program across your locations.
Communicate in person with Site Visits
Using software for site communication ensures policies and procedures are available to all sites at all times. However, software is a means to a better and leaner workflow, it can reduce travel and lower the frequency of site visits, however in most cases, it is not a substitute for visiting sites entirely. Site visits protect the brand.
Make no mistake, site visits ae a resource commitment. In a recent survey, district manages estimated they spend the majority of their time preparing, conducting, and following up on site visits (between 10-20 hours per week!). Automating your site visit processes including smart checklists and automated corrective follow-up can save significant time and money.
Audits engage the site. Audits are not a passive activity. They offer the opportunity for members of head office to talk with site leadership and employees. Ask questions, listen, and offer resources.
Last, remember that different stores and hotels execute in different ways. Franchisees and managers have diverse priorities and inclinations based on their own experience. This is expected, but organizations need to ensure that core programs and brand standards are implemented in full, on time, and across all sites.
Moving forward with Site communication and execution
If you take the time to communicate standards, procedures, and programs, you will cut substandard execution and friction. You will end up with happier employees, higher sales, and lower risks. Get started today.