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You’ve got to Be Shifting Me!

You’ve got to Be Shifting Me!

You’ve got to Be Shifting Me!

December 16, 2009 ClickSoftware 0 Comments

We’ve all been there. Standing in long lines, 15-20 people deep, waiting to have the cashier ring up our items. We’ve all experienced the frustration that comes with waiting in those lines. What’s abundantly clear is that people loathe waiting….okay, I LOATHE waiting. Growing up in Jersey, and being the proto-typical “Jersey Girl,” I am more than familiar with my fair share of shopping malls…and hence, waiting in lines. And with the holiday season suddenly upon us, I can already sense the elevation of “holiday agitation.”

This past weekend I brazenly made my way to Copley shopping center in Boston. I was on a mission to wrap up (figuratively & literally) the rest of my holiday gifts. Last on my list was something for my teenage nieces. Where to? Well, in America there are two favorite teenage spots – Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister – notice I said in America, this is a shot at my UK colleagues who are NOT teenagers and live for Abercrombie 🙂

Anyway, I chose to go with Abercrombie. I know I’m getting old when entering this store makes me want to lose it immediately – could the music be any louder? And what is with the lighting – I can’t see a thing!? Do they pump cologne through the air vents in this place?? Ugh. After finding suitable gifts for both nieces, I made my way to the cashier. Seriously??!! Are they giving away diamond tennis bracelets back there, or is this line for me to cough up my hard earned money to pay for my items? You’ve got to be kidding me.

OK – fine. I took my place with about 15 people in front of me. About 30 minutes later I had moved five spaces forward…my blood began to boil – why didn’t I just order this stuff online??! Why are there six cash registers and only two are open? Oh fantastic…the woman at the front of the line is paying with a check!! A check!! Who does that? Have I been standing in this line so long I’ve traveled back in time to 1981 when it was actually acceptable for people to write checks in a retail store!?? And check this guy out – how many questions need be answered before you purchase that $30 scarf??! Really? This is not a Porsche 911, sir….MOVE ON!

By the time I got to the cashier, I was as red as Rudolph’s nose. Just as I dropped my items on the counter, the kid working the register turned to her manager, (as she snapped her chewing gum) and said, “I have my break now.” All my brain processed was, “I’m going to break now.” I waited another leap year for the shift change, okay maybe it was 5 minutes, but you get my point…and finally I was able to pay and get out of there!

Such is the retail conundrum – why did they not plan appropriately to have enough people working in the store during this, peak hours of their peak season?

When it comes down to it, shift planning is no easy task – employers are faced with conflicting forces pulling them in opposing directions: from balancing staff levels with demand, to cost and employee preferences. Workforce management inside the four walls is just as challenging as managing resources out in the field. There are a multitude of considerations employers need to weigh in their decision making, things like:

  • Employee availability and maximum and minimum working time
  • How to minimize overtime
  • Rest time between shifts
  • Demand coverage – both known demand & emergencies
  • Management visibility and flexibility for changes

And this problem goes beyond just the retail industry and extends into other vertical markets like healthcare, transportation and public safety and security, just to name a few. Deciding which employees are scheduled for a given time block is not always easy. The problem is compounded when an organization’s labor force has tens, hundreds or thousands of employees, each with unique skill sets, unique vacation and/or training schedules, or unique limitations on working hours. And then there are the governmental and union labor regulations to consider.

Planning shifts appropriately can make or break an organization’s service performance. Poorly built rosters can lead to inadequate demand coverage, overstressed workers, and ultimately, low performance levels. Inevitably, leaving customers like me all sorts of agitated – and trust me, no one wants to see an angry Jersey chick…The Sopranos wasn’t filmed in Jersey without good reason.

Suffice to say, my retail experience is just one in a long line of customer experience cautionary tales. So, if you’re tired of the same old shift like me, stay tuned for ClickSoftware’s upcoming shift planning solution, ClickRoster, which will hit the streets in late January!

One final anecdote, the sweater I bought for my one niece, yeah… it wasn’t dark blue like she asked for, it was gray – like it matters…all I can see is red anyway! Happy Holidays everyone!

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