Area managers have many and diverse responsibilities – from maximising sales and profitability, through maintaining and increasing customer service standards and health and safety compliance, to controlling staff training and development. So much to do and only so much time!
The challenge for retail area managers is not only to optimally allocate their time between all stores (often as many as 20!), responding to the specific issues and opportunities at each location, but to also maximise coverage and do more with less.
Today we look at how improved operational visibility and communication over store and staff performance with real-time task management can enable area managers to intelligently plan their visits and delegate tasks, to perform certain responsibilities remotely, save time and maximise coverage.
1. Data-driven priorities
With 20 locations on her list, how can the retail area manager ensure that she is prioritising the right locations on a daily basis? Data from multiple sources – sales and inventory systems, in-store standards checks, compliance reports, customer reviews and social media mentions, area demographics -all brought into one mobile application, gives the area manager real-time visibility over store and staff performance for each location. This way, the area manager can identify the stores which offer the highest incremental turnover opportunities, the sub-performing ones, or the stores in highest risk of health and safety non-compliance.
For example, the store manager can see that over the past week 20 Twitter users have complained about long queues in the high-street location. This information, combined with data on 15% abandoned baskets, indicates that there is a serious customer service issue in-store that requires immediate attention. At another location, store associates have failed to submit the daily health and safety compliance reports on their store app and have ignored alerts pushed to their mobile devices for the last three days. This prompts the area manager to contact the store manager and enquire into the lack of feedback.
2. Manage more in less time!
Real-time visibility over the performance of stores, managers and associates enables area managers to better allocate their time and take on more responsibility without overlooking any location. Based on the data, area managers can monitor and manage some locations and processes remotely and prioritise physical visits to the highest risk or opportunity stores. For example, the area manager can see that store A has 100% compliance on all routine checks and standards: meeting sales targets, showcasing planogram and promotional compliance and high in-store cleanliness standards, and is attracting a growing number of customers. So why drive 20 miles to conduct a standards check at store A? Instead, the area manager can reward store A and continue to monitor the results online to ensure that standards remain consistently high. The store manager can then dedicate the time spared to a newly-opened retail outlet, building rapport with the new manager and store associates.
3. Training and working the millennial way
Area managers have the key responsibility of training, motivating, encouraging and guiding store managers and their teams. They need to provide training which is comprehensive, engaging and rewarding. Instead of keeping store staff desk-bound and away from their in-store execution responsibilities for lengthy classroom sessions, area managers can push small bites of training to the store associates’ mobile devices, offering them access to the required knowledge at the point of need.
Quick videos, fun quizzes, and memorable infographics can provide store employees with a millennial, more engaging and effective style of learning and area managers with visibility over each employee’s progress. Similarly, gamifying the performance of daily tasks in-store can improve employee engagement and incentivise best practices. Area managers can reward store staff with points for a job well done, motivating them to execute tasks to the highest standards. Area managers can then convert the points into monetary or experiential rewards, incentivising store associates to continuously improve their performance.
What does real-time task management for smarter store operations look like? Try it yourself!