Dealing In Data To Beat The Big Guys

Amazon’s entry into the grocery game has fed fears that brick-and-mortar store sales will crumble, but one store chain is using big data to flout that assumption. Kroger, which has stores throughout the South and Midwest, defied predictions with a ripe third quarter last year and is looking to capitalize on its loyal customer base even further with data mining. 

Data mining offers a host of lucrative benefits, according to Neil Patel, co-founder of the analytics platform Kissmetrics. Among these are the ability to segment your customers; break down your market into groups such as age, gender and economic status; plan merchandise to eliminate inventory overages and shortages based on purchasing patterns; and forecast sales by examining past buying patterns and the number of customers and competitors in a target market.

Kroger’s in-house customer insights firm, 84.51°, analyzes the data of over 60 million customers, and the information it gleans will be used to sell targeted ads on, as well as Kroger-branded ads on the web that serve to redirect consumers back to its home site. The company has been using data to personalize savings for its customers for several years now, but as online shopping continues to encroach on traditional stores’ territories, Kroger hopes the double-digit growth in new digital customers that it saw last year will help it continue to stay as fresh as its online competitors. 

Can’t We All  Just Get Along? 

Establish house rules for civil discourse at the workplace.

The mother who invented a “get along” shirt for her two children to wear simultaneously when they were fighting was a genius. But it’s impossible to find one shirt big enough to corral your whole team when morale is low and bickering is high. Such ill-mannered behavior can trickle down to customer interaction, leading to a host of unfortunate consequences for companies who make their bread and butter in the service of others.

Civil behavior at work is more important than ever, says Don Peppers, an author and keynote speaker who specializes in the customer experience and is a founding partner of Peppers & Rogers Group, a customer-centric management consulting firm. Peppers recommends companies adopt “house rules” that foster respectful collaboration and interaction.

If you’re looking to refine or establish house rules for your business, take your cue from these examples: 

  • Assume good intentions in others. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and practice empathy when addressing conflict.
  • Balance the interests of all stakeholders. This includes front-line employees, shareholders, customers, creditors and service providers.
  • Do not tolerate ethnic, gender or religious bias.
  • Take appropriate action against unethical or rule-breaking behavior.
  • Do not tolerate the use of power or authority for personal gain. No one wants to work for a supervisor who steals ideas or dismisses concerns in order to climb the corporate ladder.

Five Minutes With Claudia St. John, SPHR

#MeToo: Protect Your Employees And Your Business

In the wake of sexual harassment allegations and revelations in the worlds of entertainment, tech and government, companies must work harder than ever to ensure employees are provided a safe, professional working environment, whether in the office or on the road. 

Claudia St. John, SPHR, president of PPAI’s human resources affiliate, Affinity HR Group, spoke with PPB about what companies can do to make sure their employee codes of conduct reflect high standards and expectations.

PPB Recent events and stories have brought the issue of workplace harassment and assault to the forefront; from a human resources perspective, how is the conversation about workplace behavior changing; or, how should it be changing to reflect current ideas about what is considered appropriate behavior among professional colleagues?

St. John Our office has been inundated with calls about this very topic from employers who are concerned about how to keep their workplaces free from sexual harassment and assault. And their concern is well-placed. Approximately 88 percent of women report encountering some form of sexual harassment or discrimination. Given that, it’s quite likely that harassment is in fact occurring at work at even the smallest of companies.

Our advice to them is fourfold: 

1. Have a solid anti-harassment and discrimination policy that clearly describes what constitutes sexual harassment. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission uses the following definition: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. 

2. Actively communicate the policy to all employees so they know the company takes the issue very seriously. 

3. Train employees and supervisors every year or two on what constitutes sexual harassment, how to avoid it and how to handle allegations of harassment at work. 

4. Monitor your workplace. Don’t just assume it’s not happening because chances are, at some point, it is happening. And don’t assume it only relates to women—the law is gender neutral and almost 17 percent of claims filed in 2016 were by men.

PPB What strategies or tools can employers use to ensure their staff members don’t engage in unacceptable behavior when working and networking with others in a work setting that is outside the office, such as a conference or trade show?

St. John Business owners need to know that they can be held liable for supervisors’ action or inaction when handling a claim of sexual harassment, even if the event was offsite, such as at a trade show, and even if the one doing the harassing was a client, vendor or other third party. Employers need to know that it is their responsibility to keep all employees safe no matter where they are. This is why having a solid policy and training/communicating that policy is so important—it sets the expectation that sexually inappropriate behavior is prohibited, no matter where it occurs or who does it, and it will be handled according to company policy. 

PPB  How can employers make reporting harassment and assault easier for employees, and how can employers help ensure all involved parties in a reported incident are given the opportunity to respond to a complaint? 

St. John  Employers, owners and leaders need to be committed to ensuring a safe workplace and need to demonstrate and articulate that commitment. Most sexual harassment is not reported because of the victim’s fear of retribution. Having a clear and well-communicated process for reporting a complaint is essential. It’s also a good idea to have a couple of reporting options in case the one established by the company is perceived as unsafe or unfair. (For example, requiring that the victim report the incident to his or her supervisor when the supervisor is the one engaged in the inappropriate behavior is a recipe for disaster.) It’s also important to note that claims of sexual harassment do not need to come from the victim. Anyone affected by the offensive conduct has the right to report an incident. This, too, should be in your policy and communicated to all employees.  

PPB Can you provide a few basic do’s and don’ts for professionals who attend offsite work events?

St. John Offsite work events such as trade shows and conferences can be particularly challenging because the relaxed, fun, partying environment that usually comes with those events can be a hotbed for inappropriate behavior. My recommendation is:

Do communicate with employees that you want to make sure they engage in appropriate behavior while they are offsite and acting as representatives of the company. While we can’t necessarily affect others’ behaviors, we can certainly affect our own. So, stay safe, stay sober and recognize the risks that occur with these offsite events.

Do check in with your employees while they are offsite to ensure they are doing well and acting according to your expectations.

Do encourage employees attending events to stick together in a buddy system.

Do model appropriate behavior at all times if you are attending the event as well.

Don’t dismiss an employee’s claim of inappropriate behavior, even if conducted by a third party.  All claims of harassment should be taken seriously, no matter where they occur or by whom.

Don’t require employees to participate in events if they feel unsafe. Do not put employees into an uncomfortable situation.

Don’t assume your employees are able to handle the situation themselves. If you or one of your peers witnesses inappropriate behavior, take steps to support and protect your employees.

Don’t presume nothing bad is happening because you’re not hearing anything. Chances are, it is happening. Instead, be proactive and monitor your employees, even if you are offsite at a work event.

Claudia St. John is president of Affinity HR Group, LLC, PPAI’s human resources affiliate. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations and their member companies.

At The Ready

This year’s marketing trends are highly focused on building relationships with consumers on their terms. Be prepared to generate new business by incorporating some of these marketing strategies from Forbes into your 2018 business plan.

1. Make authentic connections. Strive for emotional engagement with storytelling that emphasizes the positive outcomes of your products and services for your prospects.

2. Camouflage the message. Ads that detract from an experience, whether online or in person, won’t help advertisers make headway with target audiences. Effective marketing depends on being able to blend the message with the content or event that prospects are already engaged with. The more you can personalize your marketing, the more likely you are to convert leads.

3. Lead with your CSR. Any time you can incorporate your company’s corporate social responsibility efforts—fair labor, safe products, eco-friendly business practices—you’ll score a win with prospects and loyalists.

4. Build interaction online. Invite two-way conversations on your social media channels by posing questions and asking for feedback on your products and services, and reward participants for their time and attention. 

Jen Alexander is associate editor of PPB.