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Start with the customer experience

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Among the many quotable things that Steve Jobs said is one that rings true at Workplace: You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.

Is this as important in the business-to-business market as it is in the consumer market that Apple serve so successfully? It’s arguably more important in my opinion, as high adoption and usage rates of software applications are critical in order for businesses to derive maximum value from their investment. The user experience, or UX, must enable users to get to their end goals as efficiently as possible, and with minimum investment in training.

Have you ever felt frustrated or disengaged from timesheet, holiday tracking or other business productivity software due to the effort it takes to use it, and left questioning just how much the company is gaining?

As part of our customer research, we’ve heard first hand from managers who have gone back to producing work schedules on excel or pen and paper, such is their frustration with clunky, confusing applications which fail to delight.

We understand this at Workplace, and are bringing end users into the heart of our product development lifecycle, and working with them to create highly compelling user experiences. We encourage our product team members to get out of the building and speak to prospective end users. Starting with informal customer research to begin to understand basic needs and pain points, more detailed interviews follow to allow us to define a range of different personas, from tech-savvy ‘Millennials’ who expect anytime access to workplace applications to smartphone newbies coming to terms with changes within the workplace environment. We involve users in sketching workshops and gather feedback on wireframes and mockups, and find users more open to tear ideas apart than if we presented them with graphic rich visual designs which appear more complete.

The result? A better user experience, with lower cost rollout and higher adoption rates. There are other gains for us too, getting more feedback on throwaway sketches and prototypes means less rework and better efficiency in product development. It’s also more fun for engineers to hear feedback directly from the people who will use the products they build, and our experience is that users enjoy shaping the future of apps they’ll use in their everyday work and see them come to life. All in, this approach helps us build great products, delight our customers and achieve successful business outcomes.

Steve Jobs knew all this instinctively, of course. His philosophy of great user experience is one of the main reasons why the iPhone defined the smartphone era and set the standard for customer responsiveness and usability.


Scheduling for the Back to School retail rush

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All around the world, children – and their parents – are starting to think about the start of a new school year. And that means a peak period for retailers. There have been Back to School promotions in stores since June at least but new research from National Retail Federation in the US has shown that more families will wait out the summer for deals.

Empowering employees with collaboration

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Collaboration is a big buzzword. In start-up clusters, entrepreneurs cite the importance of collaborative working – and the coolest offices now have collaboration spaces where ideas and creativity can be nurtured. And of course the introduction of social tools in the office – messaging, video conferencing and the like - has given new impetus to the way we share ideas, make connections and get our work done.

A Gold Medal for Customer Service

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To be in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games in the last week or so has been a pleasure. In particular it has been a revelation using Glasgow’s sometimes criticised public transport system as hundreds of thousands of sports fans from around the world have made their way to and from the numerous venues.

Workforce scheduling - from good to great

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The scheduling of employees in today’s retail environment is a complex task. The truth is that some companies are still struggling with manual processes – pen and paper, white boards and calendars, even cocktail napkins - to help them determine which associates need to be at the cash registers, or at tasting stations, in replenishment or deliveries.

Fact vs Feeling – World Kitchen’s Workforce Management Evolution

worldkitchWe recently presented on a Retail TouchPoints webcast with Michael Chester, VP of Store Operations for World Kitchen.  During the presentation we talked about smarter Workforce Management and Michael shared more about his smart scheduling journey and results.  We had some great Q&A from participants and actually ran out of time for all the questions. 

Workplace:  Mike, I understand when you first joined World Kitchen, the organization was scheduling with good old fashioned pen and paper.  That’s how I used to be scheduled when I was a teenager in the late 70’s!  What spurred your decision to update your process?

Retailers – Turn the rise of social media to drive in-store engagement

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A recent report from Deloitte has identified that digital technologies currently influence 36 percent of in-store retail sales and this is estimated to be 50 percent of in-store sales by the end of 2014. This provides further validation, if needed, to developing a joined up customer experience across all channels. It is essential for retailers to understand the interaction between customers, their different devices and what customers are looking for from an in-store experience. I recently wrote in Power Retail about how retailers can at a practical level turn the instant and mobile nature of social media to their advantage – through supporting four strategies:

How to reinvest labor hours to drive sales

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The average fashion retailer schedules approximately 23% of their labor budget at the wrong times. With nearly 30 years of retail experience helping to create smarter schedules, Workplace makes it easy for retailers to reinvest labor hours in order to maximize sales. 

In-store or online, make it seamless for the customer

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For some retailers the phenomenon known as showrooming, where customers use physical stores to research their purchase but buy online, is a little scary. But the reality is that there are many ways that innovative and forward-thinking companies can harness the power of mobile and the internet to drive sales growth in physical stores. This is partly because the picture of how consumers are using online channels is not as simple as the headlines suggest and research shows that while many consumers want to do their research online, there is still a great appetite for buying in-store.

Your next great employee? The misunderstood millennial

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I’ve been writing about the relationship between younger employees or associates and their mobile devices. But how about their relationships with us as employers? Or rather our relationships with them?

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