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What To Do When the Minimum Wage Increases

BY Fara Haron

Raising the minimum wage is currently taking over headlines in the restaurant industry, but it also has massive implications in retail and other minimum wage professions. Customer service representatives are an invaluable piece of a successful retail business, and they are directly impacted by minimum wage legislation.

Unfortunately, with a wage increase, consumers expect more from business with six in 10 Americans citing they are justified in expecting better service with a wage spike. However, many companies are forced to cut costs elsewhere, generally from employee benefits, which translates into unhappy workers, less job applications and lower retention.

Ultimately, these companies end up not only spending more on wages, but also on additional efforts to attract and retain employees. This can set businesses back months, if not years; however, the issue is not that the minimum wage legislation passed, but that there is no strategy in place for when it does.

Four Tips to Solidify Your Minimum Wage Strategy
Having a sound strategy in place for when minimum wage is bumped is essential to a retailer’s success. Since many will be competing for a similar pool of applicants, the key is to be the most appealing retail employer in the area, and to value your employees for what they are worth. Below are four tips to consider when formulating a minimum wage strategy:

1. Stay above the minimum wage
It may like sound too simple of a solution. With wages already increasing, how can my company afford to invest even more in base salaries? However, the ramifications of the cutting benefits decision are costlier than the wages themselves. Meeting the minimum wage makes you no different from any other retail employer in the area, and cutting benefits makes you even less attractive. When your company puts its people first, offering a better salary plus benefits, yes it is expensive, however it likely will cost less than employee turnover. Turnover can cost between 30% and 150% of an employee’s annual salary; a much higher price tag than staying above average.

Retailers spend weeks training their new customer service employees. The more you do to retain the people you have, the less you will spend on training and recruiting, and you are showing your employees that they are valued. A nice wage is the beginning of a loyal and talented team.

2. Focus on culture from c-suite to contact center
One of the biggest influences on retention for a company is its culture. According to research from Columbia Business School and Duke University’s Fuqua School, more than 50% of executives say corporate culture influences “productivity, creativity, profitability, firm value and growth rates.” Fostering a sense of purpose that reaches from C-suite to the bottom is a way to ensure that your staff will want to stick around.

Note that culture does not stem from happy hours; focus more on growth and leadership development opportunities. And while you may be considerate of how to engage those selling products on the floor, often forgotten are the people in the call center.

When your entry-level employees, like customer service representatives, see that they have a future with your company, they are more motivated to succeed. They want you to invest in their future, so offer proactive seminars or discussions during which your employees learn how to succeed internally.

It is evident that today’s workforce is expensive and has high expectations, but your people are worth the investment. Keep in mind also, that your customer service team knows better than anyone exactly what your customers want to see. Place value in their knowledge and you will find they want to contribute to your success.

3. Adopt technology for automatable activities
With all this said, clearly people are costing more than ever, so many retailers are focusing more on affordable, technological solutions. Artificial intelligence is becoming less of a buzzword and more of a tangible solution in customer service. Your business just needs to be smart about where technology can help and where it will hinder; look to the data for guidance.

A recent survey from Arvato found that 49% of people do not want to be served by a chatbot. However, 31% want more automatic call backs and 28% want more real-time order updates. It will serve you well to pin point where your people are valuable, and where they are invaluable. Empower customer service staff with more complex duties, and replace mundane activities with technology — your business will be more efficient, and your people will grow.

4. Partner with an outsourcing provider
Partnering with a customer service outsourcer allows even more money to be saved due to cost sharing. Training, recruiting, and staffing for your retail business won’t come from your resources, but rather a fixed cost can be agreed upon with the outsourcer. And, growth and technological implementation are put more in the outsourcers’ court than yours. Additionally, if the minimum wage raises in your office’s city, the outsourcer is not necessarily affected.

In Summary
The consumer expectation for minimum wage hikes to create better customer service, while not unfair, is not realistic. It is still up to you to train representatives properly for a positive result, and post-wage raise troubles can be avoided by being armed with preparations.

The key is to place value in your entry-level employees and recognize especially that the customer service team has more insight into your audience than anyone. When they feel valued and empowered, your retail business will see growth in its employees, its culture, and its profits. Find where technology can be used to eliminate the mundane and otherwise, look to an outsourcer who already has these values in place, and utilize them to keep costs low. By investing intelligently in your workforce now, you can avoid a major impact from legislative decisions later.

Fara Haron is the CEO of global business process services at Arvato and is a member of the Arvato CRM board. She has been with Arvato since 2009, and has led a rapidly growing team of CRM professionals while leveraging her international experience to support Arvato’s global CRM business. 

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Walmart expands commitment to diversity

BY Marianne Wilson

The nation’s largest retailer wants to help more young people build a career in public service.

Walmart announced $2 million in grants to organizations working to expand internship opportunities for diverse youth populations, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI). The grants build on previous Walmart funding to the two nonprofits, bringing the company’s total investment to more than $6 million over the last several years. The funding will help provide career pathways on Capitol Hill for students and young professionals through education and hands-on experience in the nation’s capital.

“At Walmart, our commitment to diversity and inclusion spreads beyond our stores and out into the communities where our associates and customers live,” said Julie Gehrki, VP of programs at Walmart. “Through relationships with organizations like CHCI and CBCF that reflect the diversity of American society, we can open the door to help more young people build a career in public service and expand the pipeline of talent on Capitol Hill and beyond by providing our future leaders with the tools needed for success.”

At a time when people of color currently make up less than 20% of U.S. lawmakers (Pew Research Center), the grants come at a critical moment. Although diverse populations represent approximately 36% of the population, only 7.1% are senior staffers in the Senate, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

The CBCF will receive a three-year, $1 million grant to help prepare college students and young professionals for careers in public policy and advocacy. The funding will provide exposure to the development and implementation of national policies – from Capitol Hill to federal field offices – as well as support intern housing, monthly stipends, professional development and leadership training.

A three-year, $1 million grant to the CHCI will provide Latino undergraduates with paid summer or spring Congressional internships. Through Walmart’s support, students will gain valuable work experience, benefit from a strong leadership development curriculum, participate in a community service project and interact with professionals and industry leaders in Washington, D.C.

Walmart has a long history supporting diversity and inclusion to create equal access to opportunity. Recently, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation granted nearly $4 million to organizations helping to promote access, equity and inclusion among diverse populations. The funding was part of the Foundation’s Diversity & Inclusion competitive grant competition, which provides support to initiatives with measurable impact on and demonstrated reach into diverse communities including African Americans, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian American and Pacific Islander, women and girls, the LGBTQ community and individuals with disabilities.

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Cyber-attacks on the rise in supply chains

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

When planning a data breach, hackers are eyeing a new point of entry.

Two-thirds of surveyed organizations experienced a software supply chain attack in the past 12 months, according to Securing the Supply Chain.” a study from CrowdSource.

Nearly 80% of IT security professionals across the United States, Canada, U.K., Mexico, Australia, Germany, Japan, and Singapore believe software supply chain attacks have the potential to become one of the biggest cyber threats over the next three years. Yet, few organizations are prepared to mitigate the risks, the study reported.

The vast majority (87%) of those that suffered a software supply chain attack had either a full strategy in place, or some level of response pre-planned at the time of their attack.

One issue is that 71% of IT professionals believe their organization does not always hold external suppliers to the same security standards, and only 37% of respondents in the U.S., U.K., and Singapore said their organization has vetted all suppliers, new or existing in the past 12 months. Only a quarter believe with certainty their organization will increase its supply chain resilience in the future.

Most respondents (90%) confirmed they incurred a financial cost as a result of experiencing a software supply chain attack. The average cost of an attack was over $1.1 million dollars, according to the study.

Following last year’s NotPetya attack (encrypting ransomware and malware that targets Microsoft Windows-based systems) and newly imposed General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines for the collection and processing of personal information of individuals within the European Union (EU), organizations are more concerned about vetting their suppliers and partners. In fact, 58% of senior IT decision-makers whose organization has vetted software suppliers in the past 12 months stated that they will be more rigorous when evaluating their partners. Nearly 90% agree security is a critical factor when making purchasing decisions surrounding new suppliers.

Although almost 90% of the respondents believe they are at risk for a supply chain attack, companies are still slow to detect, remediate and respond to threats. On average, respondents from nearly all of the countries surveyed take close to 63 hours to detect and remediate a software supply chain attack, while the leading organizations aim to eject an adversary in less than two hours, also known as “breakout time,” according to prior CrowdStrike research.

However, the study indicates that organizations are looking to adopt leading approaches to breach protection such as behavioral analytics, endpoint detection and response, and threat intelligence. Three quarters of respondents already use or are evaluating these technologies.

“Fast-moving, advanced threats like supply chain attacks require organizations to adopt new best practices in proactive security and incident response,” said Shawn Henry, president of CrowdStrike Services and chief security officer. “The new attack methods we see today call for coordinated, efficient and agile defenses.”

Specifically, this includes a combination of endpoint protection technology, expert services, and intelligence to uncover critical investigation information faster, accelerate incident response, and enable companies to get back to business as quickly as possible, the study added.

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