Operating a retail store in today’s climate can feel like a constant battle between two seemingly opposing forces. While customer experience expectations are continually rising, so is the volume of tasks retail store teams are required to complete on a daily basis. Delivering a great customer experience must be the top priority for any successful store leader—it’s what delights customers and keeps them coming back to your brand. Yet tighter labor budgets and the advent of omnichannel initiatives like “buy online, pickup in store” mean that stores teams are called on to do more than ever before.  

How can store leaders succeed when they’re caught in this tug-of-war? 

In my ten years of experience as a store manager, I found that the trade-off between serving customers and completing tasks is often a false choice. With the right approach, store teams can leverage operational tasks to deliver better in-store experiences. Here are some practical examples: 

  • Tasks can help store employees be available to assist customers. Basic tasks like restocking and recovery can place store associates in a great position to assist customers. Engaging in a task on the sales floor allows store staff to be in close proximity to shoppers without hovering or seeming pushy. When associates keep open stance and their heads up while engaged in simple tasks, customers know they’re available and ready to help them when they need it. 
  • Task execution creates operational energy on the sales floor. Shoppers appreciate a vibrant store environment where employees are busy and occupied. Working on tasks generates a sense of purpose and activity that puts customers at ease. 
  • Tasks provide staff opportunities to connect with customers. Executing tasks can create opportunities to engage with shoppers in a low-pressure manner. Restocking an item, recovering product, or checking tags provides a great opportunity to pass by customers and share product information or inform them of an offer.  

These synergies between task execution and customer experience don’t happen by accident, however. Below are several practical tips store managers can use to make this come together on the sales floor:  

  • Be strategic when it comes to scheduling tasks: Serving customers is the top priority, so schedule tasks with store traffic in mind. For example, if Tuesday mornings are light traffic days, schedule tasks starting at 10am with a stop at 12pm when visits start picking up. Reserve your less-intensive tasks for high-traffic periods so your team can complete the simpler items on your checklist while creating a high-energy, inviting store environment.
  • Seize coaching opportunities: Store teams want to do the right thing, but they might not know how. Be sure to train your store associates to enhance customer experience while completing tasks. Recovering product can be a great opportunity to connect with customers, but it only works with the right execution, maintaining an open body position, and making eye contact appropriately. Coach your teams on critical selling skills and leverage micro-learning videos to reinforce concepts.  
  • Celebrate success: Show your team the impact they have on the customer experience through your store’s results. In your team meetings, be sure to congratulate them on how many customers they interacted with, or how they provided knowledgeable recommendations to solve their customers’ needs while completing the assignments at hand.  

Store teams don’t need to compromise customer experience to execute in-store tasks. In fact, the two are often complementary. With some practice and coaching, store teams can deliver great customer experiences while keeping operations running smoothly.