One of the largest supermarket chains in the UK just announced that they are taking on 15,000 new seasonal workers to help cope with the busy Christmas and New Year season. That’s an average of more than 16 workers for every store.
What I find particularly interesting – regardless of which major retailer we are talking about – is how this kind of hiring boom demonstrates a direct need for better customer service during busy periods.
The busiest time of the year for any British supermarket is the run-up to Christmas. Retailers could just throw more effort at filling the shelves, or ensuring every checkout is open all the time, but the smarter ones will also beef up their customer service function because handling more customers needs a smarter approach than just opening more tills.
Millions more transactions all focused on one week of the year mean that challenges ripple throughout the organisation. The supply chain will be under pressure, as more stock needs to be distributed and replenished more quickly than usual. So customers need additional care from before they ever make a purchase (making sure stock is on the shelves) to the process of purchasing (making sure enough tills are open) through to any follow-up care (ensuring it is still possible to ask questions about a purchase).
Technologists use a concept called ‘the cloud’ to harness computing power and storage in an elastic way – like ensuring the tills have enough power to handle millions more transactions than normal – but in most retailers that final component of customer care will be the people on the ground, or the people answering a telephone or online helpline.
The seasonal workers will be involved in all these various areas that the retailer will need to handle the Christmas rush, but any consumer should be pleased to see that their number one reason for getting more people in to help out at Christmas is to ensure that their customer service remains great.