Three Ways Better Communication Can Boost Volunteer Engagement

volunteer engagement

Communication can solve a world of problems. When working in a charity shop, the best tool our engineers have at their command is being able to explain what they are doing, why, and how it will benefit the people working in the shop. Making people feel at ease and in the know ensures our work goes ahead with everyone feeling comfortable and happy with what is going on around them. Engagement relies upon communication in order to be effective.

Communicating with your volunteers on a regular basis and through a variety of mediums can help keep them engaged and motivated to work for your charity. There are many reasons why communication beyond the generic email can keep your volunteers motivated. Here are a just a few:

It makes them feel listened to, trusted and valued

Creating a two-way flow of conversation assures the volunteer that someone is always available should they have any problems. It also means they can voice ideas, opinions and suggestions that aren’t just lost in an email thread. Relaying important information to them regularly instils confidence and gives them responsibility so that they know that they’re an important member of the team. Valuing them in this way means they know they are making a real difference and the work they are doing is worthwhile.

It results in a more efficient working environment  

How often do we get to work and forget what we did yesterday? Let alone what we did last week? Updating volunteers on tasks that have been completed, tasks that need doing next and what needs doing right now means that everyone is in the know. Making sure volunteers know what is ahead of them makes them feel more confident and comfortable in the work that they are doing while also ensuring all tasks get done, are not repeated and the working day is more efficient.

You can remind them of new initiatives

Having a space for regular news updates would be beneficial to keep the latest events in the forefront of volunteers’ mind. Reminding them of your latest marketing initiatives or encouraging them to ask customers specific questions when they make a sale could seriously boost results. A prompt on your EPOS system that gives volunteers a gentle nudge to ask customers to sign up for Gift Aid or a loyalty card will likely see an increase in both of these, as well as encourage your volunteers to engage with customers.

While increasing engagement has huge benefits, there are also other positives that emerge from enhanced communication. Allowing Head Office and regional managers to have a full view of what messages stores are receiving ensures complete visibility across the organisation. In addition, happy and valued volunteers are more likely to remain with your charity and promote the organisation by word of mouth and their own use of social media. Investing some time in creating innovative ways to improve communication could well be worth your time.

Technology Isn’t Destroying Engagement

Technology engagement

There has been much discussion surrounding whether the introduction of technology in restaurants is actually positive. Many claim that using tablets or computers when taking orders lessens the need for human interaction and removes the traditional authenticity of eating out as a form of social escapism. However there are many who disagree and it doesn’t take long to find numerous people championing technology within the industry.

After all the research and work we have done for those working within restaurants, QSRs and fast-casual dining, it is difficult not to see how technology and IT solutions enhance their working environment.

In this day and age, almost all eateries will have an electronic POS. Gone are the days of noisy cash drawers and difficult calculations. EPOS provides a quick and easy service that fully favours the industry, easing working life for all involved with no disruption to human interaction.

While self-serve machines and ordering through tablets may appear as though it removes the human interaction aspect of dining out, we thoroughly disagree. Collecting information about the customer within a digital database allows us to listen, grow and learn what the customer really wants.

By analysing behavioural data, restaurant owners can engage with their customers on a deeper level than ever before. Being able to predict or prioritise customer needs means that they feel like they’re receiving a personalised service every time they dine. While good servers of old may remember regular customers eating habits, it would be near impossible to have new and relevant data at their fingertips – no matter how good their memory is!

Not only do we get to learn more about the customer but the customer can now find out more about the restaurant. With the use of mobile apps and websites, they have nutritional information, calories and values at their fingertips. They have more details than ever about the restaurant, the food it serves and the people behind it.

This means that without even having to meet, consumer and restaurant know more about each other than previously possible. And while this may sound counterproductive (why speak to the customer if we can already predict what they’re going to order?) we believe it opens the door to varying levels of engagement and interaction between customer and restaurant.

A two-way feedback stream is only one major benefit. Getting to know what items work, what doesn’t and why allows the restaurant to create a space within which the customer is already engaged before they even step through the door.

Technology is quickly becoming integral to human existence and many continue to lambaste it as ruining the authenticity of human engagement. This isn’t necessarily true. Certainly, it is changing the way we interact with one another and altering how we engage but to shun it completely in a world in which technology is becoming so intrinsic would be madness.

Engaging Restaurant Customers with Technology

Engaging Restaurant Customers with Technology

While technology can never truly replace traditional human interaction with customers in restaurants, it is starting to become intrinsic to everyday life for most. With seven in ten UK adults turning to online reviews before buying an item, it is clear how often we turn to technology to help with basic decisions.

More people than ever before seek out positive online reviews before trying somewhere new and particularly in an age so rife with social media, it is a quick and easy way to filter the good from the bad. Customers no longer react to basic marketing campaigns and quick promotions and instead turn to their peers for trusted suggestions on where to eat.

Hospitality organisations have found themselves having to go above and beyond serving delicious food to get those precious positive reviews. And although good service, speedy food delivery times and value for money are all competitive advantages, creating customer loyalty is the key to ongoing success.

So how do restaurants engage with customers to create customer loyalty and how can technology help?

Start with the staff                                                                                                 

Staff are the face of your restaurant so making sure that they know their goals and are briefed on their day ahead will mean their jobs become easier. Keeping staff happy in the workplace has been proven to increase productivity and decrease employee turnover. Fully communicating to your staff through an employee app or their EPOS system is likely to keep them engaged in the work they do. This will encourage positive working attitudes and positive experiences with customers. Good service is often reviewed and is high on customers’ lists when it comes to choosing an eatery. Ask yourself: would you dine somewhere that had good food but numerous negative reviews for service?

Self-service optimisation

Putting control in the customers’ hands makes them feel as though they are controlling their own time. Mobile ordering programs can help boost ordering accuracy and with an emphasis on convenience becoming imperative in the modern day, the ability to order at the touch of a button is more sought after than ever. If customers receive the correct order within a reasonable time, they are more likely to return to your restaurant. Further engagement could come from allowing them to track where their order is, how long it will take to get to them and giving them the ability to easily customise their meals.

Membership apps

Apps can be developed to allow varying methods of interactivity for customers. Creating a ‘membership area’ within an app opens the door to several opportunities for engaging customers with your brand. Practical actions such as ordering, quick payment, loyalty rewards and a rating service would all be beneficial to you and the customer. There are further functionalities you can include also: gamification, getting to know your customer better by tracking their orders, tailored promotions and rewards and interactive menus will all work to engage the customer on another level. Putting your branding on a device that the average user reportedly spends five hours a day on will definitely keep you in the forefront of their mind.

Don’t be afraid to try something new

3D printing has taken the world by storm recently and there are already restaurants that are experimenting with this. This is not to say you should start printing your burgers but be prepared to embrace new technologies within this ever-changing digital world. People are always looking for the next best thing so taking that leap and staying a step ahead of your competition is a sure fire way to keep customers coming back.

No matter what technology you choose to engage customers, remember not to lose focus on what your business is really there to provide. While technology is more than useful with engaging customers and easing work life, it must work alongside human interaction rather than replace it. By enhancing customer experience, you are more likely to build customer engagement and create brand loyalty.

The Importance of Communication in Charity Retail

The Importance of Communication in Charity Retail

Communication has long been regarded as the key to success for many organisations. Effective communication with staff and with customers is of huge importance to ensure people feel engaged and involved. With charities, the importance of communication is even greater; unless the core message is clearly communicated the support that charities depend upon will soon disappear.

For many charities the focus is on external communication – to donors and other supporters. But internal communication, to and from staff and volunteers, is just as important. People need to feel valued, listened to, and involved if their enthusiasm is to be sustained. For smaller organisations, this is simpler; people have the opportunity to speak face-to-face and most staff and volunteers will have a direct line of communication to a senior member of the organisation. But as a charity grows, these clear communication lines can become distorted or lost altogether.

 This is a people problem, but there are ways that we can use introduce technology to support and improve lines of communication as a charity grows. Choosing the right technology is important – deliver a solution which relies on everyone being a regular smartphone user and you are destined to failure. Even assuming that people have an email address which is checked regularly could be one supposition too far. What if there were a device which all your volunteers were comfortable using and with which they interact multiple times a day? What if you could start using your POS to communicate directly with your volunteers? The prime benefit is that you’re not asking volunteers to seek out new information – you have the means to seamlessly integrate it into their day-to-day routine.

Let’s take a look at the main channels of communication and how they can be enhanced through technology

Central communications

Communication from head office to the “ground troops” working in their shops is essential, but varies greatly in effectiveness. The most common group communication we see is the internal newsletter. Unfortunately producing an engaging, professional-looking newsletter is a cost that most charities will be unwilling or unable to bear, and we are told that such efforts often go largely unread.

By using the POS as a portal to communicate with volunteers, charities can quickly and simply deliver high-quality messaging through a piece of equipment that most volunteers already use every day. A newsletter which is easily accessible from the POS can reinforce the charity’s core messages, carry information on current campaigns, and keep staff updated on changes within the organisation. We can even start thinking outside of the box by including rich interactive content such as animations or even videos.

It’s important to realise that this now does not have to be a one-way street; volunteers can use the POS to communicate feedback and queries to head office. Positive feedback and success stories can be picked out and recommunicated to all shops in an area, becoming a conveyor belt of good news that reinforces the message that volunteers are highly valued by the organisation. 

Between Shops

Communication between stores can be difficult to achieve. Setting up regional meetings is challenging and it is not unusual for volunteers to have little or no contact with each other outside of their specific shop. Even where regional meetings are successful, the interactions are often fleeting – it can be hard to capture the value which has come out of conversations.

facility on the POS which enables and encourages communication between shops allows volunteers to build an important sense of community and belonging. Postings or forums can allow volunteers to discuss ideas or share best practice, letting all shops benefit and helping volunteers to tackle and overcome problems. Automated bulletins can give shops the ability to share specific customer requests or ask for items which sell particularly well in their stores, boosting sales and customer satisfaction. 

In store

How many of your stores have a fine collection of hastily scribbled notes? From reminders to phone numbers to “Dave said he’d pop in on Tuesday” – it’s not the most reliable way for shifts to communicate with one another. Memory and habit can keep a store running well for a while, but it’s a fragile situation – illness and staff turnover can quickly leave you stranded and unable to trade effectively. 

A structured virtual noticeboard on the till gives your shifts a handy place to leave “to-dos” and informational notes, and has the added advantage that they are searchable and won’t pick up coffee stains. Going one step further, the ability to set up check lists for in store processes such as the end of day means that there’s an easy reference to ensure things don’t get overlooked. It also provides a great opportunity for less confident staff to step up to positions of more responsibility – the ability to quickly run down a checklist of the tasks needed to close up the store gives them confidence that they’re doing the right thing. From the point of view of head office, the knowledge that there’s consistency in operations gives a confidence that all shops are running to maximum efficiency.


Nobody disputes the importance of communication between all branches of an organisation. Historically thishas been difficult to effectively deliver, hampered by the dual prongs of inconsistent takeup of technology on one hand, and the cost and effort needed on the other. Using the POS system – a familiar, regularly-used feature of the store – to enable frictionless communication at all levels effectively addresses both of these concerns, and can begin to truly unlock the skills and knowledge present at all levels of your charity.