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Tips for Operational Excellence

Ask retail operations executives what their priorities are, and the answer comes down to the two T’s: Talent and Technology.

At the National Retail Federation’s Annual Convention & Expo, experts discussed how they are positioning their companies to for the economic comeback and the efficiencies learned from the downturn.

Sharon Leite, executive VP stores for Pier 1 Imports, Fort Worth, Texas, said that in the downturn, Pier1 turned its focus to its associates and the resources they needed to do their jobs in order to prevent a negative impact on the chain’s customer service delivery.

“It all starts with the talent,” Leite said. “We had to continually make sure that our associates were really connecting with our customers.”

Other top operational tips presented by Leite, along with Ben Teicher, senior VP and CFO of the Ratner Cos., included:

To tune up your talent, narrow the expectation gap. “Put in place customer feedback mechanisms so that you can close the gap between what you and your associates think the customer expects from you, versus what the customers are really expecting,” said Leite.

Dive into your data. Both Leite and Teicher support traffic counters in stores, in order to provide enough information to drive conversion rates. “Combine internal feedback from stores with the external feedback from your customers to ensure that you’re delivering a service experience that is spot on,” said Teicher.

Add discipline to your supply chain, reducing the number of times product is touched before it reaches the selling floor.

If it doesn’t add value, eliminate it. “We streamlined what we asked our field personnel to do,” said Leite.

Build partnerships, both internally and externally.

Make sure you make the right hires. “Finding top talent became even more critical over the last three years,” said Teicher. Tools such as pre-employment screening solutions can serve to up the talent quotient.

Leverage the knowledge and capabilities of your internal IT staff.

And, above all, make sure your business process works, then layer on the technology tools to help drive costs down.

© 2014