By Tracy Issel

Happy employees means happy customers. Retailers know this first-hand. How can retailers engage with their employees to achieve this customer success, while still being productive? This is a question Microsoft is exploring at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show this week in NYC at booth #2703.

Over the years, we’ve seen that deskless workers, such as store employees, have been underserved by modern productivity solutions. They’ve been hampered by scores of manual procedures that are implemented at high cost, take sales staff away from customers, hinder agility, cannot be readily tracked and audited – and, ultimately, result in poor customer service.

However, with new productivity solutions and mobile devices, deskless workers are able to enjoy similar benefits as their counterparts who sit at a desk. An example of this is clientelling, which is knowing the shopper and selling them in personal manner. This happened naturally in the early days of modern retailing where staff knew all their loyal customers. Now, with automated clientelling, sales staff can provide the same type of intimate retail experience by using social shopping assistance tools on tablets to enhance the sales process on the sales floor.

Indeed, retailers who leverage employee engagement best are doing everything from ensuring store associates are able to realize the benefits of new productive tools, to enabling sales staff on the floor to communicate via social channels back to headquarters.

Coles, a leading Australian retailer, understands the need to connect their employees, which is why they are planning to deploy about 100,000 seats of Office 365 and are in the process of rolling out Yammer.  Coles will be participating in a “BIG !dea” session today to talk about how they are by enabling teams (employees AND partners) to connect, learn from one another, share information, and create value together. Stop by “Engaging Modern Retailers through Enterprise Social” from 2:30 – 3:30 pm today to hear more. If you can’t make the session, check out a blog by Coles MD, Ian McLeod, discussing why they choose Office 365.

Coop Italia, the largest supermarket chain in Italy, has turned to Office 365 to enhance the retail experience. By moving from Lotus Notes to the more familiar Outlook Web App included with Office 365, the cooperative is encouraging its employees to share insights that improve customer service. In addition, employees are communicating more effectively with partners and with other cooperatives across Italy. “Office 365 has enabled us to operate more efficiently while lowering our management costs,” says Gabriele Tubertini, CIO of Coop Italia. “Even better, employees are able to share knowledge and ideas that improve the shopping experience.

For customers to realize the benefits of Office 365, partners are developing solutions that ensure employees can get started quickly. OSC, for example, has created OSC LiveTiles for SharePoint. OSC LiveTiles is a world-class design, functionality and user experience product that gives retailers the power to build complete SharePoint interfaces in a matter of minutes. OSC LiveTiles enables companies to provide everything an employee needs, all in an easy-to-use interface. By linking enterprise-grade social tools, search, business intelligence, digital content and automated workflows, OSC LiveTiles empowers productivity and collaboration. Come by the Microsoft booth to check out what they are doing, or see the company’s recent blog post.

Employee engagement is just as important as customer engagement, and happy sales associates not only mean happy customers, but also a healthy bottom line.