How Games Can Help Retailers Step Up Service

Karl Swensen 2015By Karl Swensen, Assistant Vice President, Retail Consulting, Cognizant

 By integrating game-based training into POS terminals, stores can energize associates -- and engage more directly with customers   

The flip side of every retailer’s goal of top notch service is training store associates to deliver it -- retailers can’t provide one without the other. Given retail’s emphasis on customer experience, it makes sense that the industry is now setting its sights on employee training: 60 percent of retailers identify expanding employee knowledge as the top in-store opportunity for technology, according to RSR Research.

Gamification helps retailers hit that target by beefing up associates’ skills -- right at the POS terminal.

What is gamification? It applies videogame mechanics such as leader boards and achievement levels to business processes. Game mechanics incorporate most easily into measurable tasks and processes that yield quantifiable feedback, making it a perfect fit for transaction-oriented POS terminals.

A Real-World Success Story

Take the real-world example of a national discount retailer’s pilot project. The pilot’s success underscores gamification’s potential as an effective, economical tool for inspiring associates and fostering a more creative retail workplace.

As the national retailer expanded inventory levels and product categories within its several thousand U.S. stores, it predicted an accompanying increase in shoppers and basket size. Checkout interaction would be key to converting new customers into loyal shoppers. The retailer’s goal? Shorter lines and wait times as well as the ability to more flexibly reallocate labor.

To make the most efficient use of associates’ time as it trained them to better serve customers, the retailer launched game-based training at its POS terminals. From their workstations, cashiers answered multiple-choice questions on operational and safety procedures. The gamification program also provided cashiers with real-time feedback on their checkout speed and offered the opportunity to opt-in to compete against their peers.

The results from the pilot project? The cashiers’ improvement outpaced the retailer’s expectations. Cashiers scanned 10 to 15 percent more items per minute and reduced the average time per transaction by approximately six seconds. Their productivity rose by more than 3.5 hours a week -- if implemented company-wide, this equates to re-deployable labor dollars of $16 million annually for the retailer.

POS: the Ideal Game Delivery Mechanism

POS isn’t the only retail platform for gamification. Other options include creating product placement games based on store planograms, but POS offers several advantages. For one thing, it’s ubiquitous, and cashiers know how to use the terminals. For another, it’s multi-functional -- using it for game-based learning minimizes cashiers’ time away from the checkout. They can launch the training when store traffic is slow; when traffic increases, a simple toggle switch returns them to tender functions.

An even greater advantage for POS gamification is rooted in the terminals’ potential for deepening in-store engagement. As retailers seek to rejuvenate the store experience, checkout plays a crucial role in connecting with customers. Roughly two-thirds of supermarket shoppers credit cashiers with having a positive impact on their store experience, according to the Retail Feedback Group.

POS gamification lets retailers observe associates’ progress in providing the richer level of service that today’s shoppers expect, such as accessing information on product availability or capturing customer feedback.

In addition, game mechanics can keep a running tally of actions on a leader board, displaying cashiers’ rankings within the store or across the district each time they enter customer feedback or complete a customer survey, for example. Points or badges can be used to reward the extra effort. All of these efforts should be via “opt-in” for the store associate, so they can bring some extra excitement and engagement during the work day.

Integrating Gamification into Your POS

Gamification platforms integrate with retailers’ POS system, and cashiers access the game through a set of screens. In some cases, intermediary software is required to launch the screens and display the game.

Typical game elements include:

  • Challenges to encourage tasks while driving the learning objective(s)
  • Win conditions that serve as the game’s end goal
  • Rewards such as badges or points that motivate cashiers to finish the game or execute the assignment
  • A leader board that displays game standings across departments, stores, or districts and regions
  • Self-expression methods to allow cashiers to make their scores public via an internal company social platform, such as a voluntary Yammer group.

When delivered directly to POS terminals, gamification fosters a more engaging work environment, allowing retailers to offer better service while keeping costs down. Start your associates, and your organization, playing to win.

Karl Swensen is the Assistant Vice President of Cognizant’s retail consulting practice.

 

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