02 May 2023

Is Maintaining 'Customer Intimacy' Taking a Toll On Retail Workers?

It is not easy to please customers. Do you agree with the statement? A McKinsey report released at the peak of COVID-19 revealed that the pandemic has made it crucial, more than ever, to establish "customer intimacy." It states that companies' revenues increase faster than their peers if they practice customer intimacy. In short, the closer organizations are to their customers, the bigger the chances for them to bag gains.


Personalization in retail is a process of providing tailored experiences to shoppers of products through interactions and friendly communication in a retail environment. But personalization might not be everyone's cup of tea. Companies demand retail workers not only to carry out their basic duties associated with their job role but also to establish healthy interactions with their customers.


Whether it's New Year’s, Black Friday, Eid al-Fitr, Easter, or Christmas, businesses make a handsome sum each year thanks to the retail heroes: the employees.


The job role of a typical retail employee is to ensure a well-functioning store, business, and warehouses and establish intimacy with customers so they keep coming back. Easier said than done, indeed! How many times have you seen someone yelling at a worker in a supermarket or a local store? It has become quite a common practice, especially in the pandemic, when frustrated customers have often targeted retail employees to take out their anger.   


According to Retail Trust, a well-known charity organization in the U.K., one in three retail employees is "shouted at, spat on, threatened or hit every week" by customers. Shopkeeper abuse is spreading, and one of the reasons is the rising cost of living. People frustrated due to high prices lash out at employees in a fit of anger. No wonder why the retail industry is the sixth most stressed sector in the U.K.


The rate of abuse retail employees faces is shocking. Around 90 of employees say they had faced abuse at least once at work, with 84 percent (over eight people in 10) being assaulted verbally, and 31 percent being threatened with violence.


Despite this, retail employees have to maintain 'customer intimacy' at all costs. It is the top demand of retail companies, and they even provide special training to candidates before hiring them. After all, customer satisfaction comes first! But at what expense? Something that stands debatable till today.


Retail employees report deterioration in their mental health


Not only this, Retail Trust’s very recent Health of Retail Report brought to the attention that more than 1,500 retail staff say financial concerns, facing abuse and violence, and deteriorating mental health as the top reasons for them quitting their jobs.


Speaking of workplace violence, the 2022 Crime Report of ACS revealed that each store in the convenience sector spends over 5,000 pounds just on crime prevention measures.


In just last year, over retail industry invested 246 million pounds in crime prevention alone. These measures include preventing and tackling incidents of theft, verbal abuse, and even fraud and cybercrime.


The Health Report also stresses that for employees themselves, 83 percent reported a deterioration in their mental health. But that's not all. Around 43 percent reported a decrease in their general sense of well-being over the last 12 months, which they say has become unmanageable for them. Now that's even more concerning. 


Technology can greatly aid in retail workers’ wellbeing


A feature on Microsoft's website once again underlines the role technology can play in reducing stress in the retail sector.


The article touched upon the common problems in the Asia-Pacific region, such as changing health directives amid the pandemic, ongoing supply chain disruptions, and staff shortages. It underlined that technology could not only empower frontline workers to make their job easier but could also help reduce stress and result in low turnover.


With more meaningful connections with team members, thanks to digital technology, companies can provide more satisfying jobs and improve their staff retention. Training, looking after employees, listening to their concerns, and keeping track of their health via a digital app can boost employee wellbeing to unprecedented levels.



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