Geography doesn’t matter once you implement a team collaboration solution. For the purposes of this article, we'll define "collaboration tools" as software that enable team members to communicate and collaborate with one another regardless of distance. You can use collaboration software to improve the customer journey, your employee orientation as well as greatly enhance your sense of teamwork and morale. Team Collaboration Software are designed for teams working together to reach a larger, overarching goal, and help with the various facets of collaboration, from facilitating communications to coordinating tasks.
1. Effective Collaboration for Retail Stores
To use most team collaboration tools effectively, you need a tech-friendly employee base; since many retail workers are also millennials, this is rarely an issue. Once your team understands how to use your channel, you’ll get the most from it if everyone from the top down actually uses the collaborative tools. By setting up different groups and channels, you can be sure that everything stays organized, and users can access information or get help when they need it.
2. Make Easy Announcements in Real Time
Since everyone can access your collaborative tools at once, it’s an ideal way to spread the word about new promotions for customers, or new contests for employees. You can also announce important staffing changes, procedure changes, or security alerts. When a new fake coupon launches on Facebook or another site, a collaborative tool allows you to swiftly send an image of it to your stores to ensure your cashiers don’t honor it.
3. Offer Easy Access to Realtime Help and Resources
A channel that creates a safe place for team members to ask each other questions, even if they are in different locations, can help drastically improve operations and help workers avoid errors. You can also create a sole repository for your tools, documents, books, and links that outline your procedures and policies so they can easily be accessed by your team no matter where they are.
With some quick Company Policy reference pages, workers can access the information they need without waiting for a manager, interrupting the shopper’s experience. For example, if your worker has to handle an uncommon return, they can access a simple “How To Handle Returns” guideline page instead of waiting for a manager to come take over.
4. Boost Customer Service in and Between Locations
Collaboration tools benefit the internal operations of your business by facilitating communication between employees. They also offer fast and easy ways to enhance customer experience. A customer who loves a pair of heels in one location may not want to risk running across town to see if another store has them in her size. A store associate can get the answers needed in seconds using a collaborative tool and mobile device, and either save the customer a drive or let her know her new shoes will be waiting for her.
5. Private Channels Improve Internal Communication
Not every person needs to be in on every project. Setting up specific channels to discuss ongoing projects or specific situations allows you to include only those who need to be there. Use a private channel for a specific project, event, or even a discussion regarding employee issues or concerns. Managers could hold a single conversations with all store Team Leaders, who can then handle conversations with their rotating staff during shifts. Or, with the ability to hold private one on one messages in collaboration tools like Slack, Managers and workers can discuss private matters without scheduling a meeting. Overall, private channels can help facilitate conversations and create a frictionless process for teams to communicate.
6. Improve Onboarding and Retention
How is your employee turnover rate? If you struggle with training or find that you are constantly hiring new workers to replace those who are leaving, you may need a better way to communicate. Collaboration tools can make onboarding easy, since the new employee always has access to a built-in mentor and source of answers. Setting up an onboarding channel or track also helps automate the process and ensures that everyone gets the same comprehensive experience. The right approach to onboarding can help your new team members assimilate quickly and ensure they feel welcomed and supported when they arrive. Asana would be an excellent collaboration solution for setting up a collaborative onboarding infrastructure. You can add as many stages as needed, and even delegate team leaders within each phase.
7. Team Building at its Best
A collaborative tool can help employees in diverse locations feel like they're part of the same team. It can also help your retail staff better relate to your district and corporate staff. From birthday wishes to high fives, a collaboration tool can be used to foster a sense of community and teamwork. Use it for contests, to announce special occasions, or to highlight an individual or team accomplishment -- these things go a long way towards making staff members in multiple locations feel involved and engaged.
8. A Virtual Watercooler Forges Connections
You won’t get the benefit of hydration, but using a collaborative tool as a virtual water cooler can facilitate casual conversation and help pull your team together. It can even lead to new ideas and fresh insight. Offering a thread for casual chatter also keeps conversation off your other threads and keeps them clutter free. Random fun, memes, humor, and more can go in your virtual watercooler channel and give users a chance to interact casually as they check for important notifications and messages.
9. Brainstorming Generates Ideas
As the people who work closest with your merchandise, your store procedures, and your customers, your team has a lot of insight that could help enhance your offerings. Using a collaborative tool for brainstorming sessions can trigger new ideas for enhancing the customer experience, streamline store operations, and introduce new promotions that cater to specific locations or demographics. A collaborative tool makes it easy for your team to pitch ideas, share suggestions, and get feedback. Teams can even establish “virtual suggestion boxes” with collaboration tools, by establishing a dedicated channel for employees to share their thoughts with those who can actually act on these ideas and suggestions.
10. Strengthen Your Loss Prevention Awareness
Loss prevention is a major concern for any retail location, and should always remain a high priority focus. At the end of the day, loss is an inevitable aspect of retail, but with proper techniques and tools, every member of your team can be trained to react appropriately to any issue that does arise. With collaboration tools, teams can replace otherwise out-dated policies for loss prevention. Instead of outfitting workers with walkie-talkies to rely on a secret code word to alert the team to a possible situation, utilize the private chat of collaboration tools that we mentioned previously.
Workers can send a private message, or utilize a LP channel, to alert managers to a potential situation, without ever alerting the public or shoppers. For added security, popular collaboration tools like Slack allow us to integrate multiple solutions. While it might require some custom building, a unique Slack integration could be developed to stream live security camera feeds directly to a Slack room would managers to instantly get a quick glance at the store, even armed with only their mobile phone.
At its best, a collaboration tool can help your associates function and feel like a team, even though they are deployed at totally different locations. By enhancing communication and making it easy to access information swiftly, you provide your team with the tools they need to function efficiently and better serve your customers.