It’s an age of convenience. Customers demand it. And restaurants are focused on delivering it – literally.
Investments in features like food delivery, mobile ordering and curbside pick-up have aimed at providing a utopian customer experience with hopes to retain loyal consumers in an increasingly competitive landscape.
But what about the employee experience?
Prior to these technology investments, store-level employees navigated an already-complex environment to meet in-store customer needs. Now, factor in juggling multiple point-of-sale systems, manual signage updates, unintegrated delivery modules, outdated phones and the complexities of online ordering; Employees are far from having a positive experience.
Not only are companies experiencing low employee retention rates and increased hiring and training costs, but it’s ultimately causing the customer experience to suffer. The technology that was intended to improve customer experience is now the culprit of why it’s worsening, and it all stems from the employee experience.
After evaluating the above elements, consider the following steps for moving forward in your journey to an improved employee experience.
- Corporately make employee experience a priority.
Start with the buy in of a senior-level stakeholder. This is not only essential for funding purposes, but it’s critical to have this individual actively championing for change and assigning value metrics to evaluate progress. Without leadership support, the initiative is meaningless.
- Gain cross-functional stakeholder alignment.
Once an Employee Experience Champion is established, this person must be empowered to align internal groups towards the same priority. These groups may include Marketing, Technology and Operations.
- Use human-centered design principles.
Think back to “getting behind the counter.” Keep the principle of empathy in the center of your research to better understand and implement transformational changes that will truly help employee processes and improve technology efficiency.
- Get buy in from the front lines.
As obvious as this might sound, in order to improve employee experience, you must listen to employees! Be sure to have tools in place to capture store managers’ and associates’ ideas and valuable feedback.
- Optimize your digital and hardware assets.
Ensure you are getting the most out of your current technology. Conduct an inventory of your technology applications and hardware to understand the dependencies, costs and maturity of each.
- Make it perpetual.
Improving employee experience is a continuous, perpetual cycle – not a one-time evaluation. It’s important to evaluate employee experience as current technology evolves and when new technology is added.
So, what can restaurants and retailers do to change this?
It begins with three things: people, process and technology.
Let’s start with people. Many companies defer to conducting employee surveys and data, but it’s more than that. It’s “getting behind the counter” and empathizing with employees. This can be done through job shadowing, direct employee intercepts and cross-market employee focus groups. By making this additional effort, it allows companies to gather honest feedback and understand the frustrations of the front lines. Companies need to answer questions like: Which manual processes could be automated? What are common technology complaints from employees and customers?
Next up: process. It’s important to understand the ins and outs of store-level daily operations – from packaging an order to creating employee schedules. A friction mapping process is recommended to identify busy times and congestion points and correlate sales volume to store traffic. Visualizing the store layout with friction points will help pinpoint where employees are facing hurdles and whether the space should be allocated differently to optimize typical traffic paths.
An example of a friction point might be the ordering line. It often becomes congested, making it difficult for employees to manage the various types of orders received and where they need to go. A strategic solution could be creating separate food lines and ordering boards for delivery, to-go items and in-store guests to better organize the traffic.
Lastly, be sure to understand areas where technology can alleviate employee frustrations, but also where it hinders process optimization today. Conducting an audit of your current technology is helpful in getting a comprehensive view of how all the systems work together and where friction points may exist within the store and with external channels. For example, a restaurant may identify there is a breakdown in process between its employees and the food delivery partner, causing unnecessary delays. How can this handoff between restaurant employees and the food delivery partner be smoother and more efficient?
There’s no doubt investing in the customer experience is a strategic move. However, for brands to reach the full potential of this new technology, it requires the support of its employees. The best brands in the world continue to invest in the customer experience, why should the employee experience be any different?
About the Author
Josh Hogan has over 20+ years of experience in digital marketing and strategy. He has spent the last several years at WWT, running sales/strategy for the WWT Digital team and personally led engagements with banner experience customers such as Jersey Mikes, Southeastern Grocers, Enterprise, Carnival, Schnucks, and Walmart. As the Managing Director of Digital Experience at WWT, he leads high powered strategy, creative and technical teams that focus on helping clients discover and activate their plans for Digital Transformation.
Photo credit: Ali Inay Unsplash