Usage Profile Series: The Retail Usage Profile

Usage Profile Series: The Retail Usage Profile

19 Oct 2016

The concept of a Usage Profile was introduced in this post on September 19, 2016. This series of articles will describe eight role-based Usage Profiles plus a Foundational Usage Profile. These profiles cover well over 90% of all employee and contractor roles in the U.S., across all industries. Each Usage Profile article will describe:

  • The primary type of work done by people in the Usage Profile
  • The vertical industry segments where the Usage Profile occurs
  • The metrics for workers in the Profile
  • How the Profile is unique
  • How workers in the Profile communicate
  • The technologies and tools used by workers in the Profile, currently and evolving to the future

This post considers the fourth Usage Profile, Retail Workers.

Usage Profile 4: Retail Workers

What Retail Workers Do

The Retail Usage Profile comprises workers whose primary job is serving customers, shoppers, diners, and citizens face-to-face on the retail premises. The work is very transactional, since the Retail Worker assists customers with stock on hand, menu items, banking transactions, or various pre-defined public services. The Retail worker is trained on the products or services offered and on the point-of-sale/point-of-service systems and supporting systems used to reference information about inventory, customer accounts, products, or policies.

Usually, a supervisor is available, either on-premises or by Instant Messaging or telephone, to support the Retail Worker and approve exceptions that may be requested by a customer.

Retail Worker Industries and Titles

Based on an analysis of US employment by occupation1, in 2015 Retail Workers represented 13.8 million U.S. workers (9.3% of employment). Retail workers are represented in the vertical industries of Retail Stores, Food Service, Banking, Utilities, State and Local Government, and Travel. Job titles include Retail Clerk, Retail Sales, Waiter/Waitress, Teller, Customer Service Representative / Service Representative, Records Clerk, Tax Clerk, Ticket Agent or Representative, and Travel Agent.

Retail Worker Metrics

Retail Workers work on assigned shift schedules that ensure a sufficient number of staff is available for customers at various times of day. They are almost always exempt from overtime. Sometimes Retail Workers are measured by the number of transactions performed by hour, shift, week or month. They can also be measured by the level of customer service provided, either through surveys or by the number of customer complaints. While the financial metrics for Retail Workers can be represented by the ratio of their expense to the revenue produced (E::R), more often they are considered part of the cost of the retail service location. In other words, they are regarded as a fixed cost to provide the required levels of service and to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty. Enterprises adjust this cost by matching staffing hours to customer demand patterns or by increasing or reducing the number of retail locations.

How the Retail Worker Usage Profile is Unique

The Retail Worker Usage Profile differs from the other profiles in these ways:

  • On-Premises: The Retail Worker is always on-premises to provide direct customer interaction. If not on-premises, they are likely in the Contact Center Usage Profile.
  • No Work from Home: Since Retail Workers are available for in-person customer interaction, they do not work from home.
  • Shared Communication Tools: Computers and telephones for the Retail Worker in the customer-facing spaces are shared by all workers in that space, across all shifts.
  • Employee-Based Communications in Shared Back Office: Employee-based communications such as training or contact with human resources, payroll, facilities, logistics, or similar departments are accomplished in back-office shared workspaces at the same or a nearby location. These communication tools are provided in the Foundational Usage Profile.
  • No Personal Communications Devices Provided: In general, the Retail Worker is not provided with a personal communication device, since they use the shared devices described above. If the employee uses a wireless device for their work, it is most likely one of a set of location-based devices, and is checked out by the Retail Worker during the worker's shift.

How Retail Workers Communicate

Retail Worker communications with customers is almost entirely face-to-face. The Retail Worker then uses a point-of-sale/point-of-service device and a software application to serve the customer's request, such as a food order, a merchandise sale or return, or a governmental agency transaction such as a license procurement, a library book loan, etc.

In some high-service or high-ticket sales situations, the Retail Worker may have a wireless device to better serve the customer by finding and displaying information such as product images, color selections, design options, pricing proposals, etc.

The Retail Worker may use a computer or phone at the sales counter to check inventory at other locations, request approvals for exceptions when the supervisor is not present, or get assistance in responding to the customer's request. In some cases, Retail Workers use Instant Messaging (IM) from the sales counter computer for contact with their supervisor or with peers at another location.

Retail Workers will have shared communications devices in the back office area where they can use audio or video conferencing for training, communicate about their employee role with departments such as human resources, or do administrative work associated with the retail location, such as placing orders for replenishment of inventories or supplies.

The Retail Worker will likely have a voice mailbox for calls they receive while the Retail Worker is busy serving a customer or for calls from other departments. This may require an internal phone number or extension number, but does not necessarily require a direct-inward-dial (DID) number from the public switched telephone network. The Retail Worker will also have a company-provided email account for sending and receiving work-related information or meeting/training schedule information.

In high-ticket retail situations, which represents a small portion of Retail Workers, there may be personal shoppers for selected customers, new automobile sales persons, or similar roles. In these instances, the Retail Workers may communicate with specific customers via email, cell phone SMS texting, or phone calls. In some cases they may use their personal cell phone for this purpose, whether the cell phone costs are reimbursed or the cell phone use is at the employee's discretion and not reimbursed. In other high-ticket retail cases, the Retail Worker may be provided with a wireless device or may have a DID phone number for calls and voice messages from their customers.

Retail Worker Communication Directions for the Future

Trends in the Retail Worker Usage Profile point toward more integration of communications into the retail application software packages. Whether in retail stores, banking, government or travel, communication to support transactions will increasingly be provided as a feature of the application software package. In addition, communication will be structured for the specific purpose. For example, a request for inventory availability at other locations will be performed by a software routine supplemented by IM, rather than by a series of phone calls to other locations to find the item.
A second communication trend will be the increased use of wireless mobile devices to interface with customers in retail store spaces and similar retail settings. For example, a retail clerk may be able to use a wireless tablet to find and display items or styles to a shopper rather than walking between numerous display areas.

Further, we expect the trend to continue toward the use of video-capable mobile devices or retail kiosks for more complex retail activities such as configuring high-end appliances, making luxury travel arrangements, providing governmental services, and performing complicated retail banking or insurance transactions such as business loan applications.

The trend toward retail interactions on wireless devices and via video may be reinforced and accelerated by the trend to online self-service and to mobile device apps. The customer and the Retail Worker may be able to work together on web pages or apps. The number of required retail staff and the associated communications volumes may be reduced by this increased customer self-sufficiency.


The Retail Worker Usage Profile has a limited set of base communications and unified communications requirements. Almost all communications can be accessed through the online applications used by the Retail Worker for point-of-sale transactions and for management of inventory, accounts, products, policies, or regulations.

Retail workflows will be enhanced through use of wireless mobile devices, especially for the high-ticket retail environment. These workflows will be supplemented, possibly enhanced, and sometimes replaced by web or mobile device apps on the customers' wireless devices.

Communications required by the Retail Worker employee for training, for transactions related to payroll and benefits, and for common communications are provided and will continue to be provided in a back-office or common area by the communications tools specified in the Foundational Usage Profile.

For the Retail Worker Usage Profile, focus on the continued transformation of the business processes and workflows so as to minimize the cost of communications services needed to operate and support each retail location, while also optimizing the customer and the Retail Worker experience. Seek to avoid assigning specific communications licenses to the Retail Workers (e.g., phone numbers, phone devices, user licenses, UC licenses, etc.). Rather, embed those communications into the relevant application software or share the licenses and devices across workers and shifts.

1US Bureau of Labor Statistics Table 11b.

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