The SEAK approach in action at CAMP DAVID | SOCCX fashion stores: how to successfully harmonise business targets, employee requirements and customer expectations in fashion retail.
The CLINTON Großhandels-GmbH is an owner-managed fashion company based in Hoppegarten near Berlin. Their menswear label CAMP DAVID and the womenswear label SOCCX, make it one of the most important companies for casual and sportswear in German-speaking countries. The more than 250 retail stores in Germany are managed both independently and by their partners.
Michael Erdmann controls a total of around 60 shops with an area of 100 to 1,000 square meters each. Erdmann brings experience from the fast food industry into his work, where topics such as optimised staff scheduling or benchmarking of stores or locations have top priority. Looking for an IT partner who could support him with these and other tasks in his expanding fashion business, Erdmann chose SEAK Software. We asked the fashion manager a few questions.
How did you get in touch with SEAK Software?
Michael Erdmann: We had previously tested two other systems for time recording and staff scheduling. We came across SEAK on the internet and got in touch. Then we were shown the IT solution.
Choosing SEAK was easy after that. This was partially because the software reflects my own considerations regarding optimised staff requirements planning and time management. Until then, I had only worked on an Excel basis.
SEAK goes much deeper, takes more details into account and offers significantly better control options.
Which problems did you plan to solve using SEAK software?
Erdmann: Above all, we wanted to achieve greater legal clarity and conformity in our time management. The time recording and integration of these data for wages and salaries was previously very tedious. Working hours were recorded manually by each branch manager and sent to HQ via fax at the end of the month. Of course, this procedure was prone to errors and very time-consuming for everyone involved.
Today, working hours are electronically recorded and processed into the system by the employees themselves. Controlling and correcting bookings is carried out by two entities: our branch managers and the HR office. The time required is minimal after an initial period of getting used to. It is no longer necessary to transmit data in the form of tables or lists. But SEAK offers more: time recording and staff requirements planning from a single source.
The hourly data for balances and absences, such as holidays or training, are included in the planning procedure. We initially needed a little time and patience before we could benefit from the advantages in efficiency, because working with the system is quite complex. But now considerably less effort goes into all these processes than before.
How have processes and procedures changed as a result?
Erdmann: SEAK software enables smarter, faster and more efficient processes and procedures. None of the branch managers use paper and pen anymore for staff scheduling – only the SEAK system. Requirements planning for a branch can be completed in 20 minutes.
We have standardised the processes for creating plans. By adhering to a structured procedure for shift planning, the branch manager reduces time spent on this task by 80 to 90 percent. The procedure looks like this:
1. Employees submit requests for holidays entirely through the system. After approval by the HR office, the dates are saved in the system.
2. Employees also carry out absence planning for specific days off, training measures etc.
3. Since preferred working times, functions and hourly balances are all available in the system, the branch manager can now use automatic planning to create the shift rota.
How are employee wished addressed better now?
Erdmann: Productivity is much easier to plan, control and monitor. It is not our aim to save costs, but to optimise them. In some branches, this means, for example, planning even more staff on high-turnover days. The software also contributes to a much better communication with the branch managers.
How do you organise staff scheduling processes with the SEAK software?
Erdmann: The starting point is your planned turnover, which is available for every day and every branch. A distinction is made between strong and weak days. I do the basic planning and create a kind of template, which is supplemented by the HR office with information on holidays, etc. and filled in by the branch manager. They can do this manually or use SEAK’s automated suggestions.
Before working with SEAK, I created sample shift rotas for each branch. Of course, that wasn’t as fine-tuned as it is now with the SEAK software. In addition, I was only able to control the implementation selectively for a few branches and could not react to changes as quickly. Frequency analysis has only become possible since using SEAK.
Are there any topics that you are now able to discuss with branch managers on a basis of deeper understanding after introducing SEAK?
Erdmann: Definitely. Many things can now be discussed better because we simply have more clarity. There is, for example, the issue of the number of staff present before stores open in the morning. In the past, it was often decided according to a “gut feeling” and calculated on a rule of thumb basis. Now the scheduled number of staff clearly matches actual requirements more accurately. Another topic is Saturday as the weekday with the highest sales.
By providing us with numbers that are based on several factors, SEAK found that we had by no means exhausted the customer frequency and thus our sales potential on Saturdays. We therefore used even more staff hours on these days. Initially, the employees had the impression that their branch was overstaffed. However, the measure’s effectiveness was confirmed by an increase in sales on the days that already saw the highest sales.
How has your employees’ workday changed? What does your team have to say about the SEAK software solution?
Erdmann: The workload on Saturdays is now distributed much more fairly. This change is just as popular as having an overview of your own working hours. Everyone can access these at the click of a mouse. The system is really very transparent. Therefore, from the beginning there was minimal resistance to the introduction of SEAK.
How do you measure the success of your investment in IT solutions from SEAK Software?
Erdmann: SEAK software is actually unrivalled for companies in our industry and has become indispensable for us. I myself now only work with SEAK, especially since data from the ERP or cash register can also be used for staff scheduling.
Which evaluations do you watch most closely?
Erdmann: Plan / actual comparisons. In the SEAK solution, they are shown in a particularly clear and simple format, provide an excellent communication platform with branch managers and help me improve the planning quality.
You also use the Team Performance Monitor (TPM). This software from SEAK aims to make services and potentials visible at a glance, to benchmark departments and regions, and to demonstrate achievements and deviations from goals. What is your impression after working with it?
Erdmann: The diagrams in the TPM are optically very well organised. I use the system primarily for an overview of the development of important key figures such as hourly turnover, items per receipt or average receipt, as well as for researching the causes of significant changes and identifying further potential.
What does the TPM essentially do?
Erdmann: It provides a meta-level overview for comparing branches over development periods, including a traffic light function. We can optimally configure the evaluations to meet our needs and, for example, easily recognise which employees need further training.
The SEAK principle aims to harmonize the goals of companies, employee requirements and customer expectations, such as service, availability of goods and consultations. How does this translate to actual experience? Does it work?
Erdmann: Definitely. The system is designed to not simply reduce costs, but to optimize the use of resources in all areas. The most important goal is greater customer satisfaction. The corresponding key figures show that it works.
What is your experience with hotline support from SEAK?
Erdmann: Very good. However, I now rarely need to use it.
What is the SEAK spirit to you according to your experience with our sales, support, consulting and training teams?
Erdmann: It’s the enthusiasm for the system. I share it. In a conversation with the SEAK management in Reinbek, I also found that people at SEAK are definitely interested in exchanging experiences and that the permanent improvement of the software is a top priority for them.
What surprised you the most when using the SEAK solution?
Erdmann: The complexity of the system. Ultimately, however, this exactly reflects the complexity of the processes and relationships in our business. This means that we do not need any further IT solutions in this area.
What are your plans for the future?
Erdmann: We want to expand further. SEAK software supports us in this. That is why we have now introduced the system in all 250 retail stores.
We would like to thank Mr. Michael Erdmann for the interview. This interview was conducted by retail journalist Bruno Reiferscheid.
Photos © CLINTON Großhandels-GmbH