The march toward complete automation in the workplace appears, at least, to those who make their living predicting the future, inevitable. Daily now it seems we’re met with headlines predicting that robots will usurp a staggering number of jobs in the near future.
But there’s another narrative, however, that paints a slightly different picture for the future of work: Increased automation will make service jobs more valuable than ever.
It’s not hard to find evidence for this already in today’s economy. A variety of new and existing brands rely on human employees to provide customer experiences that are more unique, luxurious, and/or thoughtful than would be possible via robot, and driving revenues and retention rates upward for their efforts.
That is because there are just some things that robots can’t do — and even if they could, addressable markets of people are willing to pay a premium for a more human experience. Consider, for example, the increasing demand for unique handmade goods that has contributed to the success of Etsy, an online marketplace where individual artists sell their creations. Or we’ve seen the preference for quirky, individually curated and thoughtfully appointed lodgings that has helped Kimpton Hotels take market share in the crowded hospitality industry. And for many businesses, such as craft breweries and coffee shops, greater automation is feasible but the experience created by the lack thereof is actually a major selling point.
Even Amazon didn’t become the behemoth it is today without complementing its sophisticated automated distribution processes with phenomenal customer service from reps who can make any frustrations that happen to arise during a customer’s online shopping experience (like a missing package or an item that simply didn’t meet expectations) disappear.
But there’s a catch.
As customer-facing sales and service roles become an increasingly essential part of creating customers experiences and establishing brand differentiations, hiring for those roles is becoming more challenging than ever.
For starters, with low barriers to entry and no shortage of opportunities, service roles frequently attract candidates who lack the necessary qualifications. A survey performed by the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) reported that 92% of retailers believe that less than three-quarters of job seekers are qualified for the positions they are looking to fill. Adding to the challenge, nearly a quarter of employers say they lack the ability to offer competitive compensation to the candidates that are qualified. In other words, top talent gets snatched up quickly by companies willing or able to offer premium pay and benefits to service workers.
The high turnover in retail and service roles adds another complication to maintaining a staff of capable front-line employees, which can make or break a service-based business. In the same report from the RCC, retailers cite lack of training, inadequate interpersonal skills, and inadequate communications skills as the greatest challenges to retaining employees.
Service, hospitality, and retail businesses are overcoming these challenges by investing more heavily in training and developing employees who possess most of the qualifications for these important customer-facing roles. Employers in these industries often hire front-line employees who can communicate well and demonstrate soft skills such as empathy, positivity, patience, and a willingness to improve — while training them on product information, selling skills, POS and inventory systems, people management skills, and more.
The 2017 Training Industry Report from Training Magazine showed a surprising increase in training budgets, increasing 33 percent to $93.6B across all industries from 2016. Looking more closely at which industries had the biggest surge in training investments, Services and Retail/Wholesale led the charge with 44 percent and 42 percent of companies increasing training expenditures from last year, respectively.
National chains, regional franchises, call centers, and other businesses with customer-facing employees face similar challenges when it comes to training them to deliver the best possible customer experience. High turnover in these industries not only necessitates a speedy onboarding process and ongoing training for new hires, but also makes it harder to deliver a consistent and complete training experience to every employee.
There is one technology that can help any business scale onboarding and training in a way that is consistent, effective, and affordable: video.
And while many service-based businesses have been using video for decades to train associates, more and more companies are upgrading to a cloud-based video training platform like Panopto that makes it easier to scale training for frontline employees in the following ways:
In the example video below, you can see how a corporate merchandising manager might communicate specific product merchandising instructions to in-store teams across the country for a specific product category (in this case, crackers).
Panopto’s enterprise video platform is designed to make video training easier, from recording to sharing, and even searching inside video. Contact our team to request a free trial and see how Panopto helps service-focused businesses improve video-based training for customer-focused employees.