Businesses across the United States, many still working to comply with the Affordable Care Act, have a new problem to worry about. The Next Big Thing in public policy circles is to push a hike in the minimum wage.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is among the latest city leaders to push for raising the minimum wage. According to the Los Angeles Times, he’s circulating a plan to raise wages to $13.25 an hour.
Meanwhile in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants a $13-an-hour floor on wages. San Diego recently passed an ordinance requiring staged increases to at least $11.50 by 2017. Seattle passed a $15 minimum wage this summer, and wages go up in Michigan on Sept. 1.
We could go on, but you get the point: Despite objections from some business owners (some businesses, such as Ikea and Gap, are boosting pay voluntarily), minimum wages are going up, seemingly everywhere. It will now be up to businesses of all sizes to think harder than ever about their staffing needs and how to meet customer expectations within new payroll realities.
Efficiency in every part of operations will become more important in all service-oriented businesses. Here are some tips for making your business more efficient, from front to back:
The Front Door/Waiting Area
Whether you’re running a restaurant or a tire shop, you should give some thought to how you currently manage your wait and whether the process could be handled in a way that is more efficient for staff and a better experience for customers.
Today’s waitlist management systems quicken the process of adding customers to an automated list. Once they’re entered, it’s easy to communicate with customers using the method of their choice, whether that’s by classic pager or SMS text notification.
The streamlined process untethers customers from your front area and allows you to potentially trim the amount of resources that go into operating the front door.
Many businesses have found that they can stretch their staffing simply through better staff communications. For example, they adopt two-way radios or staff paging devices so staff can be moved efficiently from one task to another, depending on customer needs.
As one example, a health club needs staffers available to show potential new members around and get them signed up. But what do those employees do at other times? They could be helping to keep the club tidy or ensuring equipment is in good order. But you want them readily available in case someone shows up, so they probably just stand around waiting.
Or what about at the restaurant wait stand? Couldn’t the host or hostess be doing other work – checking on restrooms, rolling silverware, and helping to bus tables – during slow times?
With better communications, staffers can multi-task and still remain attentive to customer needs.
When it comes to fast-casual restaurants, efficiency often is lost in the dining room, as food runners wander around looking for table tents as customers’ food gets cold. As a result, customers get cranky and restaurants have to hire more runners.
With today’s table-tracking technology, the problem goes away. Customers are given a small device when they order. They place the device on their table. Then food runners know exactly where they’re sitting. Presto. Efficiency.
As wages rise, that’s the kind of magic all businesses will be looking for.
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Michelle Strong is the chief marketing officer at LRS and an advocate for meaningful customer engagement.