The effect of the pandemic on customer behaviour will be felt for years to come. The uncertainty of the last 18 months have caused many shoppers to rethink their priorities. Where choice and value for money were once their primary concerns, customers are now looking for speed, convenience and, above all, safety.
Our recent survey of UK and US customers gives a good overview of the new landscape:
- 43% of customers say that a lack of social distancing is their biggest frustration with in-store shopping
- 39% will leave a store if its too crowded
- 28% switched to a different store because they didn’t feel safe
Safety is a two-way street
Focusing on customer safety will be a vital part of recovering from the pandemic, but what about colleague safety? Retail colleagues have had an incredibly tough year, adapting to ever-changing restrictions while also bearing the brunt of customer frustration. Sadly, this has led to a worrying increase in colleague abuse:
- 90% of retail colleagues suffered verbal abuse during the pandemic.
- Two thirds of essential retailers reported an increase in physical violence during the pandemic
- Mandatory facemasks were a major trigger. The Co-op reported 990 violent incidents in the first week after they became compulsory.
Dunelm is one of the UK’s most established homeware retailers. Since its foundation in 1979, the company has grown rapidly in both size and reputation. Today, it has 173 locations across the UK as well as a successful online store.
Dunelm fared better than many during the pandemic. Thanks to a mixture of great customer service and a strong online presence, its sales increased 23% in the second half of 2020. Unfortunately, this was accompanied by a rise in both colleague abuse and shoplifting incidents.
We believe that every colleague deserves to feel safe at work. That’s why we were eager to help.
Something old, something new
Dunelm approached us with a specific set of criteria. Speed and discretion were key. Colleagues needed a way to raise the alarm immediately without making themselves a target. We realised that the best approach wasn’t to install a new system from scratch, but to combine our technology with Dunelm’s existing security measures to make them more effective.
We had previously rolled out VoCoVo across all of Dunelm’s stores, so colleagues were already familiar with our headsets. We decided to integrate these headsets with the company’s existing tannoy system to create a powerful hybrid solution:
- Colleagues can use their headsets to trigger an automated security alert over the tannoy.
- This alerts all on-site security as well as warning shop floor colleagues of a potential threat.
- Alerts are anonymous so colleagues can raise the alarm without revealing their identity or location.
- Criminals can see that colleagues are connected and ready to act at a moment’s notice, creating a powerful deterrent.
The new system was only introduced a few months ago but the results are already clear. Colleagues feel safer and more confident at work, as Dunelm’s Service Support and Operations Manager Fareeaa Hanslot explains:
“For us, the security option brought in 2021 is fantastic. It enables colleagues to trigger an announcement when there may be a threat, and the feedback from stores has been hugely positive. It gives teams confidence that something can be done to avoid a situation and protect colleagues.“
Take back control
Whether you opt for tannoy integration or a more standard VoCoVo set-up, our technology provides peace of mind for shop floor colleagues. Knowing that help is always at hand is a huge psychological boost, especially for those working alone or at night. Our research shows that colleagues feel 54% safer with VoCoVo backing them up.