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It’s no secret that happy employees yield happy customers. In fact, according to the Russell Investment Group, publicly traded companies on the list of Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For have gained an average 10.8% a year since 1998.
However, employee attrition in high-turnover industries such as retail can be devastating. According to Bloomberg, turnover in retail averages 5% a month, so a company following the national average loses roughly 60% of their hourly staff each year. Such turnover results in massive expenses in hiring and training new employees, placing customer satisfaction at risk.
When tasked with reducing employee turnover through engagement, a Fortune 50 retailer turned to social media and the emergence of communities to create a safe, internal site for employee feedback. The ultimate goal of this initiative was to give each of its 300,000+ employees a voice, and to make this huge company feel small in the most important way.
By 2009, the community was rolled out to over 2,000 stores nationwide, and in the first year yielded 3,500 employee conversations. The early days were the Wild West. A small group of employees were tasked and overwhelmed with reading every single employee comment, determining the topic and positivity or negativity, and then routing the information manually to the right department for disposition and response.
In order to communicate important findings to management, a large number of reports were manually created. The response time, analysis and reporting was a slow and tedious process. However, this superstore continued to see the benefit of employee engagement and turned to technology to lessen the analytical and reporting burden.
In 2015, they sought help from a platform that collects and analyzes all employee feedback in real-time using text and sentiment analysis to determine the comment’s topic and sentiment. These findings are then automatically delivered to all appropriate levels and departments within the organization through standardized alerts and reports.
By then, the superstore’s employee community had gone mainstream and grown to 285,000 employee conversations. With the use of text and sentiment analysis, the organization had quickly found insight in all areas of operations from tracking the success of new employee programs to pricing and operations issues, all while boosting engagement and morale.
Giving Employees a Voice
The community strives to engage and empower its associates to speak up, especially when things seem off. In one particular month, each store was to receive four specific big-ticket items. A number of associates quickly realized they had received 40. The employees reported it through the community; the platform detected the issue and alerted management. In a matter of hours, the company saved close to $800,000 by addressing the issue. According to the community manager, similar issues are identified and quickly resolved every few weeks.
In addition, the community gives employees a safe place to voice concerns that inevitably impact many. One of the biggest barriers to the retention of hourly retail employees is scheduling. Recently, this Fortune 50 company rolled out a program around consistent scheduling that aims to give its hourly employees predictable days off.
While this sounded great in practice, communication lapses were immediately identified during the roll out when the community manager received thousands of negative posts about schedules. The efficient reporting and sentiment analysis of this issue enabled management to quickly identify the root cause and roll out this important program in a better way.
Standard Operating Procedures
In late 2015, this superstore issued a new dress code policy that allowed associates to wear shorts in the summer months. And while this policy seemed appropriate for the majority of the company, associates in locations such as Hawaii and Florida started a conversation. As the topic gained popularity across the company, the team responsible for the dress code realized that many associates in both warm and cooler climates preferred wearing shorts all year due to the active nature of their jobs. The text and sentiment analysis platform alerted the organization to the topic and negative sentiment, allowing the company to make a relatively simple and cost effective change that had a huge impact on employee morale.
Another way text and sentiment analysis is able to assist the superstore is during emergency situations such as hurricanes, snowstorms, and earthquakes where power outages are prevalent. Because associates can access the community on their phones, they can communicate with headquarters and the platform can alert and report on major issues.
Employees are the eyes and ears to a business and giving them an opportunity to provide feedback is critical in addressing operational and morale challenges. In the short time since implementing text and sentiment analysis into their social listening platform, this retailer has seen significant cost savings, increased analytic efficiency all while improving morale and decreasing turnover. When combined with an engaged associate population, text and sentiment analysis has empowered this organization to continue to meet customer demands while being an employer of choice.
James Vecchio is co-founder and president of EpiAnalytics, Inc., an on-demand software company that provides artificial intelligence (AI), customer experience analytics and business process automation to improve customer-focused operations. Previously, he was the director of sales and strategic marketing at Island Data, an analytics company measuring online purchase experience for market researchers acquired by LivePerson, Inc. He fostered and grew relationships with Global 2000 organizations, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Adobe, AT&T, Wal-Mart, Xerox, Fox Interactive, InterActive Corp. and Liberty Media.