When COVID-19 causes colleague shortages, how can communication help?

Article by Olivia Robinson | 16th August 2021

Since formal restrictions were lifted on the 19th July, the NHS Test and Trace service has gone into overdrive. In the first week, more than 600,000 people received a message telling them to self-isolate. Retailers warned that this could lead to widespread stock shortages and even store closures. 

Thankfully, this should only be a short-term problem. From 16th August, those who have been double jabbed will be exempt from self-isolation rules unless they test positive for the virus. In the meantime, there are also plans to exempt essential workers from Test and Trace and replace it with daily workplace testing. 

Nevertheless, personnel shortages are still likely. Some colleagues may be unable to get vaccinated, while others may choose not to. As COVID-19 moves from being a pandemic to an endemic disease, absences due to illness are bound to flare up periodically. This may be exacerbated by a surge in winter flu caused by a lack of immunity in the population. 

All in all, you need to be prepared to operate with fewer colleagues. With the pandemic already costing 190,000 jobs in the UK retail sector, this may be a lot to ask. Luckily, we can help. 

Customers have little patience for colleague shortages

Colleague shortages often mean longer waiting times for customers. Fewer checkout colleagues mean longer queues. Fewer shop floor colleagues make it harder to answer customer queries promptly. 

This is a serious problem for customer retention. Our recent survey of UK and US customers showed that customer patience is at an all time low:

  • 23% of customers say that long queues are their top frustration
  • 26% of customers typically have to wait more than three minutes to have a query answered
  • 9% will leave the store if they are not served within two minutes

Read the full report here

Better communication helps you to do more with less

While we can’t increase your colleague numbers, we can help you to make the most of the ones you have. Our products are designed to remove the daily annoyances that lead to inefficiency. Here are just a few examples:

Answer questions on the job

With fewer colleagues in store, those on the shop floor need to work as efficiently as possible. Stopping to answer customer queries can eat into your time, especially if answering the question requires you to speak to another colleague. 

VoCoVo solves this problem by allowing you to communicate at a distance:

  • Call Points allow customers to contact colleagues from anywhere in store
  • Colleagues can answer questions via their headsets without stopping their work
  • If more information is needed, colleagues can contact other colleagues without tracking them down 

Worried about staying safe with fewer colleagues? Find out how VoCoVo can help you to tighten up security:

Unman desks

Customer service and Click & Collect desks are busier at some times of the day than others. When colleague numbers are limited, manning these areas during quiet periods is not a viable option. At the same time, leaving a desk unattended could cause you to lose precious sales. This is where our call points can help:

  • Customers can press a call point to let colleagues know they are waiting
  • Colleagues can either answer their question remotely, or reassure the customer that they are on their way
  • Colleagues can get on with other tasks without worrying about missing a customer

Speed up the checkout process

Checkout queues are often a flashpoint for customer frustration. Our system helps you to keep things moving, even when colleague numbers are low:

  • Keypads allow checkout colleagues to call for help without holding up the queue
  • Colleagues can authorise self-checkout purchases remotely via their headsets

We hope that stores can return to normal staffing levels before too long. In the meantime, our products are there to pick up the slack. Talk to our team to find out more. 

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