People, Connection and Contribution: 4 Ways to Break Down Silos in Retail


A store’s internal culture is inseparable from business results, and the best-run stores have one thing in common: effective and harmonious communication within the organization. From headquarters and operations to store managers and their customer-facing sales associates, the entire team needs to work together — both proactively and reactively — to continuously improve the customer experience.

For this to happen, there must be clear, consistent and effective communication within the organization. Three of the worst words for a customer to hear from an associate are “I don’t know.” But when associates are connected and informed, they will end up being the best ambassadors for a brand by providing exceptional customer service.

1. Establish a single source of truth for communication

Store managers are responsible for the individual and collective success of their associates. But in addition to playing a key role on the team, including being visible to customers and assisting associates with day-to-day tasks on the floor, they must complete administrative work. Often, this occurs in the back office, and managers must sort through communication and messages coming from multiple sources on multiple platforms, with various levels of importance and urgency.

Without the right technology, store managers often face an overload of information from the head office, as well as the struggle to effectively communicate any messages to their associates. Instead of sorting through emails and reports to find clarity around issues, incorporating context from in-person conversations as well, technology that serves as a single source of truth for corporate communication eliminates any potential for miscommunication.

2. Streamline information to ensure consistency

If associates are expected to have an intimate knowledge of a brand’s products and mission, it’s essential to be able to deliver this information in a clear, concise and effective way. Between corporate and the store, establishing a go-to source for information can assist in communicating company directives or product news — anywhere from merchandising, promotions and price.

For example, if corporate launches a new promotional campaign, providing access to this information as it happens will ensure the initiative is implemented in-store in a timely manner. With streamlined information, employees can also stay up to date with product and brand training.

Additionally, tasks and information can be marked in order of importance and priority, establishing unified execution across all stores. Ultimately, when associates are up to date on the most critical information, the customer experience will be significantly improved.

3. Provide an accurate view of the organization

With the right technology, data aggregation and analysis can provide an accurate view of the organization, across all stores. Information often passes between the field and stores in multiple ways, including emails, reports, text messages and personal conversations. This lack of continuity hinders a true view of the organization.

With no accurate snapshot, a retailer cannot fully understand how healthy the organization is. The best solutions have a core set of standards that can be personalized to the unique retail environment and hierarchy. What’s more, this technology can break down common communication silos. When data is collected into one central repository, retailers can easily answer questions such as:

  • Do we have multimedia capabilities that allows the head office to show stores what needs to be done for new merchandising initiatives?
  • Are promotions and sales events executed in a timely and consistent manner across all stores?
  • Can corporate strategies be managed from the district level with assurance that all stores are executing uniformly?

Being able to answer these questions only aides the retailer in answering the most important question: Are customers receiving a high-quality experience in the store?

4. Make the customer experience a priority

In order to provide exceptional customer service, a retailer must first ensure it is the centerpiece of store culture. This is done by allowing any employee, at any time, to quickly receive streamlined, accurate information across the business.

With flexible tools, retailers can set up a communication strategy that supports their business processes with the user experience in mind. Once established, the entire team is able to work as a single unit to improve the customer experience. 

Janet Hawkins is CEO and founder of Opterus.

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