People are looking for fast, flexible and flawless customer service that includes a smile; they want to be entertained while making their purchases. Case in point: Despite an increase in online shopping, the majority of customers say that the in-store experience – particularly customer service – is a major driver of purchases.

Increasingly, store managers are at the heart of that process. Give managers what they need and store managers are the glue that holds a retail location together. They act as point person when customers are upset, and they are the ones associates turn to for training, advice and answers to customer questions.

However, store managers are often charged with so many back-office duties it can be difficult for them to spend as much time as they’d like on tasks that contribute to customer satisfaction. In many stores, managers are so focused on scheduling, inventory management and administrative paperwork that they have little time for training and supporting retail associates and working with customers directly. Store managers also suffer from a lack of support resources.

They don’t have access to competitive pricing data or instant access to the forms, brochures and merchandising materials they need to do their jobs. This is happening at a time when they should be embracing emerging mobile technologies that can help boost promotional activities and personalise the shopping experience for customers.

How Can They Get From Here To There?

Invest in basic building blocks first. Retailers need to invest in infrastructure and integration technologies that empower store managers and sales associates to better meet customer needs. Part of that is the need to improve business process management. When automated processes and workflow occur, store managers get instant access to relevant information, better and faster business metrics, and analytics that guide decisions such as product merchandising and pricing.

Automation Gives Employees The Tools To Upsell

One of the biggest enablers in the back office is the multifunction printer (MFP). The store manager is often overwhelmed by the amount of paper that must be processed or printed during the day — human resources hiring and onboarding forms, loss prevention forms, credit applications, layaway forms, extended warranties and loyalty program signups, not to mention rebates, sales agreements, service contracts and vendor invoices.

Managers who have to manually input information into many disparate systems end up spending nearly all their time in the back office — away from the sales floor. However, when point of origination and intelligent data capture technologies are combined with business process management, manually processing incoming documents and time-consuming data entry become a thing of the past, freeing up hours of time weekly.

These technologies also potentially reduce the number of keying errors, giving retailers more exact information, which leads to smarter business decisions. It also helps them more effectively cross-sell and upsell, since they have the most up-to-date pricing and merchandising information available — often at the touch of a button.

Turn Your Team Into Brand Ambassadors

When everything comes together, retail managers and their associates become brand ambassadors, able to give customers the service and support they expect when walking into a store. This leads to customer loyalty and repeat business. A recent study reports that 76 percent of consumers make purchase decisions in stores, so it’s critical for retail associates to be on the floor engaged with their customers. Otherwise, e-tailers will win the sale.