SOURCE: Aberdeen Group

Aberdeen Group

January 05, 2010 11:55 ET

High Priority for Top Performing Retailers: Customer-Driven Workforce Management Optimization

Establishing the Customer-Centric Store Level Employee to Combat Declining Customer Loyalty and Decreased Spend

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwire - January 5, 2010) - The recession is turning the focus of retailers away from manual store-level scheduling, task management, and time & attendance processes and toward optimized workforce optimization to ensure the most qualified employees are servicing customers in a timely and effective manner. Eighty-two percent of top performing retail organizations have a formal store-level workforce optimization program in place for more than two years, and 72% of these same organizations consider themselves very satisfied with their results, according to the Aberdeen Group report, "Retail Workforce Optimization: Establishing the Customer-Centric Store-level Employee." The research from Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks Company (NYSE: HHS), details the business benefits derived from upgraded workforce performance and cost optimization.

According to Aberdeen data, as a means to increase the overall value of their customers, top performing retailers are focusing on optimizing the store-level customer / associate interaction. This is achieved by matching associate skill level, interests, and availability with the needs of the customer. Store-level managers are taking advantage of workforce automation, which ensures the completion of this task quickly and effectively, which also enables this manager to spend more time on the store floor to more effectively service customers.

Given the challenging economy categorized by decreased consumer spend, increased availability of alternative commerce alternatives, and decreased amount of per employee spend internally, it seems logical that retail organizations are turning towards optimizing existing workforce processes such as scheduling, time & attendance, and task management versus relying on haphazard, "gut feel" decision-making.

"In a challenging economy, customer expectations are through the roof. When they walk into a store, they expect a knowledgeable, attentive associate to help them make a purchase. They know they have other shopping alternatives at their disposal. Thus, the right employee needs to be available to complete the right tasks at the right place and time," says Greg Belkin, chief author and e-Commerce analyst, Aberdeen.

Aberdeen has found that top performing retail organizations are overcoming many of the traditional internal challenges previously associated with workforce optimization. Just 22% of retail respondents cited issues such as budget, buy-in from senior management, and lack of a clear corporate vision as top organizational hurdles. Conversely, top organizational hurdles centered around data management and technology proliferation around the enterprise. This is not to say that these issues have completely dissipated for retailers, but the fact that they are not top challenges suggests the importance that customer-facing workforce optimization at the store-level plays for traditional brick and mortar stores.

"The need for a highly efficient associate / consumer interaction at the store-level in a difficult economy has given workforce management optimization the internal push it needs to overcome traditional process challenges," says Greg Belkin, co-author and research analyst, Aberdeen. "Technological challenges remain a concern, but can be overcome by a close examination of existing systems, and a good partnership with appropriate solution partners."

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About Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks Company

Aberdeen provides fact-based research and market intelligence that delivers demonstrable results. Having queried more than 30,000 companies in the past two years, Aberdeen is positioned to educate users to action: driving market awareness, creating demand, enabling sales, and delivering meaningful return-on-investment analysis. As the trusted advisor to the global technology markets, corporations turn to Aberdeen for insights that drive decisions.

As a Harte-Hanks Company, Aberdeen plays a key role of putting content in context for the global direct and targeted marketing company. Aberdeen's analytical and independent view of the "customer optimization" process of Harte-Hanks (Information - Opportunity - Insight - Engagement - Interaction) extends the client value and accentuates the strategic role Harte-Hanks brings to the market. For additional information, visit Aberdeen or call (617) 723-7890, or to learn more about Harte-Hanks, call (800) 456-9748.

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