Closing the feedback loop is key to getting a return on investment
In my last article I talked about the need to make sense of the torrent of data businesses receive daily. But it’s not enough to simply understand what’s going on in your stores.
Insightful though it is, you need to act on what this data is telling you to get real value from it. It’s not the first time we’ve talked about this. Last year, my colleague, Toby Hawkins wrote ‘without action, data is dead’, and I couldn’t agree more.
You need to know that your team is acting on this information and, what’s more, you need the data to prove it. This is closing the feedback loop’.
“It’s the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle that gives you the return on your investment”
As I mentioned in my last article, the problem isn’t a lack of detection systems or information. It’s that much of the data disappears, unseen and unused, into silos: no one is looking at the bigger picture.
You need a digital platform to bring all the information from disparate sources together and make sense of it all. Because closing the loop is the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle that gives you the return on your investment.
The UK’s biggest supermarket chains know this. When the cost of a single fridge failure in a single store can run into tens of thousands of pounds, the modest cost of an automation system pays for itself many times over.
Have you done it yet?
In the busy (i.e. manic) world of retail, where serving customers takes ultimate priority, a lot can go wrong. A faulty fridge or a spillage is going to need immediate attention, but managers simply don’t have the extra time in their hectic day to assign the job, prove it was fixed and chase the person they sent to fix it.
It’s not the end of days if the orange juice is on the wrong shelf – but losing an entire cabinet’s worth of stock due to a downed freezer, or someone tripping on a spillage is far more serious.
You don't even need to ask
This nightmare of chasing half finished jobs and run-away priorities can be solved using smart works management tools, such as a field application downloaded by every team member to their smart phones.
This time, imagine you spot a large spill that presents a serious hazard. Whip out your phone, scan the nearby location tag (QR) and raise an urgent job for the spill to be cleaned up. The job then gets pushed out to your team, who then know what they need to do and where they need to go.
Once a team member has arrived to clean the spill, they can scan the code to open the correct workflow, which then ensures they follow the process and upload a quick pic of the now hazard-free floor.
The feedback loop is now closed. The field app facilitated raising the action, taking action and then capturing the data and confirming the job is complete. No cajoling, no chasing and no uncertainty.
Why closing the loop matters
Here are just some of the ways closing the feedback loop boosts the bottom line:
- Efficient operations – store managers can see at a glance that tasks are being taken care of, which frees them up to focus on bigger issues and to analyse the effectiveness of these responses.
- Protects customers – A prompt response to hazards reduces the risk of injury to shoppers and reduces the store’s exposure.
- Saves money – Insurance premiums will become cheaper as you’ve reduced your insurable risk.
- Claim defensibility – Compensation claims, genuine and fraudulent, cost supermarkets millions of pounds every year. Being able to prove almost instantly that a hazard was or wasn’t dealt with not only saves time and money normally spent investigating claims, but it will also mitigate a potentially costly negligence claim.
- Improves customer experience – A happy customer is a more loyal customer. Studies show that when a store runs like clockwork and the ambient conditions are comfortable, customers tend to stay longer and spend more. Being able to raise and close remedial actions through an app frees up your time to focus on customer service.
Digitalisation will change not just how you work but the way you think about work. Works management tools, whether it’s a smart digital platform, a field application or a combination of the two, create transparency, accountability and efficiency. This encourages employees to take personal responsibility, knowing that their efforts will be recognised in the data, and that they can easily engage with any issue without the extra hassle.
Managers will feel more assured on the basic stuff, freeing them up to be more analytical about the day-to-day, and having the data to really dig into this. Reporting is also easier for them, and safe and legal compliance is continuous – the data tells you if you're compliant constantly and not just at the point of audit.
Over time, you will have created more proactive, self-aware and intelligent store teams, all by empowering them through smart tools that help them get the job done, and do all the filing for them.
To sum up, the insights your data reveals are interesting but it is the actions they spark that create value.
Mark Twain put it well when he said, “Data is like garbage. You’d better know what you’re going to do with it before you collect it.”
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