I was an experienced merchandiser before I joined eXPD8’s Central Office Team. I appreciate the challenges. The field team face a lot of them. It’s a part of their role and they do it with panache. eXPD8’s Field Team and Central Office teams need to work closely, in parallel, to maximise effective collaboration. But there’s the reality of working in physically segregated teams. It can create a disconnect. It has been a huge advantage in my Central Office role to be able to put myself in the shoes of a merchandiser. I can ask myself, ‘Logistically, will this work? Could I do it?’.
My previous experience allows me to tailor briefs and questions to suit the needs of the Field Team. I appreciate that not all the ‘pet peeves’ I had in my life as a field merchandiser are so easily resolved. This blog is first and foremost a shout out to anyone working on our merchandising team. It’s devoted to my top 3 frustrations as an experienced merchandiser. I’ve reviewed and unpicked each of them, to explain why our processes are the way they are, and why they are so crucial to delivering fantastic results.
‘Why do they ask me this EVERY week?’
My main question / pet peeve as an experienced merchandiser – ‘WHY DO YOU KEEP ASKING ME THIS!! I TOLD YOU LAST WEEK!! LEAVE ME ALONE!!’. I didn’t necessarily consider that when telling a client something that challenges their own information. For example, contradicting a stock on hand report. It must be supported with evidence. 1 week’s feedback just may not cut it. For example, after 8 weeks it can be a bit tedious inputting the same information if you are regularly merchandising a DVD fixture which asks you to detail which title is out of stock.
From a Head Office perspective, it’s critical. The consistent feedback over those 8 weeks provides proof that there are issues, either in the receiving of stock or being allocated enough stock. Your feedback may seem useless in isolation, but it does not fall on deaf ears. It builds up a big picture mosaic when held up for trend analysis across many hundreds of stores. We can now raise stock issues with the client as an ongoing or widespread issue rather than a ‘one-off’. This can set the wheels in motion for the root of the problem to be fixed.
‘Why do I need to get a legitimate store signature and a full contact name?’
With almost all of our calls, we ask our merchandisers to obtain a signature from either a specific colleague or a senior member of staff. This may seem like an obstacle when completing so many calls. But it does have a very significant purpose. Recording a store signature confirms the store is happy with the work you have completed whilst in store. This immediately transfers some accountability from the merchandisers over to the store. If a set up has been recorded as a ‘store refusal’, clients will often request more detail. It will be recorded as an aspect of the work they have paid for not having been completed.
By providing a contact and some brief detail e.g ‘Joe Bloggs – GM Manager refused set up on shop floor due to seasonal promotion in place’ – this can then be followed up with the store. This will occur via Central Office or directly by the client. It means eXPD8 is able provide evidence that we have done everything in our power to ensure compliance. Clients do regularly come back to us to let us know they have contacted stores. They tell us time and time again that this is significantly easier if they have been able to go back with details of a conversation that took place with a fully named store contact. So while it’s a task, it vital to eXPD8’s overall business operations.
‘Blurry photos – are they really such a big deal?’
YES. YES THEY ARE! We want the exit photos we provide to our clients to be singing and dancing. We want to celebrate the excellent quality of our work, to show off the fantastic job we do. Unfortunately, a blurry photo or a photo of the wrong products does not do this. Instead, rightly or wrongly, it screams out, ‘I’m not feeling it today, can I go home now?’. Furthermore, it does not demonstrate the eXPD8 mentality to provide service excellence first time… every time. Whilst having beautiful, glossy photos are vital for this reason, good quality images also play a big part in compliance checking. In Central Office, we complete a substantial amount of manual compliance checks on our activities each week. This ensures our standard is maintained and the correct data is being reported to our clients.
It’s easy to miss something in a low quality image, whether it’s a missing SEL, a back to front product, or an unreported stock gap. It’s vital we pick up on these small factors and highlight them to a client when reporting on an activity. Hiccups are to be expected. But to not be aware of store challenges or to fail to highlight these could impact the integrity of our reporting. Technology now exists for automatic photo recognition, where software identifies brands and counts the facings available. eXPD8 are increasingly working with these pioneering technologies. In these cases particularly, high-quality images are of paramount importance. The entire purpose of an audit visit may be undermined if a client’s software cannot identify individual products within our images.
Feedback on the process is key
In summary, every action we ask of our Field Team is for a good reason. We regularly meet with Zone Managers and Regional Managers at Central Office so they can understand the processes that need to be followed. This is vital for us to deliver our services, and so they can share this insight with their teams. Having an informative and open approach to the relationship between the office and field is key. Central Office colleagues also conduct regular store visits to ensure what we are asking of our merchandisers is practical, achievable and ultimately, works for the client.
So, if you ever find yourself wondering as an experienced merchandiser ‘Why are we doing this?’ please ask! Similarly, if my new colleagues at Central Office ever think, ‘This must be frustrating for our field team,’ please make sure you are appreciative and understanding! Sharing the good reasons we have to work the way we do can massively boost our working relationships with the field, and improve the way we work together. If you would like to see how our experienced merchandiser team can help you solve the challenges you face, please get in touch today. Just click here, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our Directors Mark Thurgood and Pete Bailey on 0117 403 0405. We’re ready to take your business further.