A new global consultancy is offering Americas-based travel retail companies a portfolio of premium staffing solutions, but adding a state-of-the-art technology aspect that strongly differentiates its services from those of other agencies in the industry.
A female-founded and female-run business, Ethos Farm hit the ground running in the U.K. in September 2017 when co-founder Sally Alington launched a series of services designed to enhance work force effectiveness. At the same time, Ethos Farm Americas, based in New York, opened under co-founder Lauren Walsh, and focused on providing personnel using Ethos Farm’s expertise. The company, all women-run in the US, provides front-line staffing for airports, airlines, retailers, travel retailers, and the luxury brands of the world.
“We have become very targeted in what we are doing, especially in the Americas,” Walsh told TMI during a recent meeting in New York.
Ethos Farm offers two main services in North America, particularly: Travel Retail staffing solutions and recruitment of demos, promoters, and brand ambassadors hired directly through the retailer or through themselves, and Managed Agent Solutions across North America and LATAM.
For staffing, the company partners with aviation service provider ABM Industries, which allows Ethos Farm to have security clearance at over 100 airports in the US.
“We can provide staff with full airport credentials, background checks, everything they need to work in the airport without impacting the brand or retailer – no temporary badges or security escorts required,”says Walsh.
As well as providing recruitment for the brands directly, Ethos Farm America has its own team of about 20 staff with multiple experiences and multiple languages that allow it to provide a flexible solution for a brand either for a promotion site for HPPs or SPPs or for a fixed period of time. For example, the company provides five shifts of promoters a week at the Origins counter at JFK International Airport for International Shoppes.
Walsh explains: “Perhaps a company needs cover on their counter to target a specific flight. The staff need to speak the target language, work a short shift, maybe 4 hours and be trained at short notice. We have the flexibility and technology to deliver this easily.”
The company also offers a Managed Agent Solution service. In this model, Ethos Farm does not directly provide the staffing to the client but instead sources the best local partner to deliver staffing.
“But the personnel are managed by us to ensure one consistent message to staff across multiple locations. It delivers one point of contact for the brand, one invoice and continuous review to enhance performance of local agencies and their staff. For example, we currently operate in this way with Bacardi, managing agencies in Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile, who have Brand Ambassadors in the field for Bacardi,” she explains.
3-fold Technology Tools
Personnel is only one aspect of the service, says Walsh: “Along with these staffing solutions, we provide a technology that I believe is what sets us apart from strictly travel retail staffing,” she says.
This technology is 3-fold, encompassing Briefing, Reporting and Training (BrApp, InSight, iTrain).
The technology has been developed by Mat Garner, who managed huge workforces at Stansted, Manchester and Heathrow airports as Customer Service Experience manager.
“Our technology encompasses work force management, it allows the employer to brief and collected information from a large number of staff in a variety of locations, where the messages can change quickly day to day,” says Walsh.
The training programs can be customized based on brand requirements and cover everything from product information to how to greet people. Completion of training modules can be monitored from a live dashboard and knowledge is tested and recorded.
BrApp (Briefing App)
Walsh says that its proprietary BrApp does a variety of tasks: it provides briefs on a daily basis that can be managed by Ethos Farm or by the brand directly; it pushes notifications directly to staff, either as a broadside or to specific individuals. Notification can be by phone or tablet by text or email, with a link to the brief.
“The message might say: ‘Welcome to your shift today, we’re focusing on Grey Goose for this week, Your target is….’ We are notified when someone completes the brief, so we can ask follow-up questions to test their understanding. We get the answers right back and can check them in real time,” notes Walsh.
BrApp can also track sales where staff can enter their sales at the end of the day using pre-loaded product information and pricing.
“Staff can check off sales, submit their report and we see how many units were sold, what the total sales were, who sold them — it shows us what people are buying. It can also be used to track the success of a promotion or even determine how many customers were recruited,” she says.
A key advantage is that all the information is centralized.
“There is no need for excel spread sheets coming from five or six different people that have to be amalgamated together, the data is accessible live. Staff can also report issues such as out of stocks or damaged POS, while managers can use it to recognize great service. All of this is pre-loaded within BrApp,” says Walsh.
InSight provides qualitative data
InSight is more of a qualitative reporting tool. Pre-set questions generate feedback about the staff’s shift with questions like ‘which products did people ask about most? Which nationalities are buying which product? What age range is buying? Are customers asking for something that you don’t have?’
“This provides an opportunity for the staff to tell the brand what they need to do, and gets staff involved, positioning them to be the brand’s eyes and ears in the store. It sometimes provides information that the brand might not otherwise hear, which can be especially valuable when no brand ambassador is present,” says Walsh.
As an added benefit, staff information generates a real time dashboard and can provide information in graph form, use multiple choice, and allow for text feedback.
Educating a dynamic workforce
Ethos Farm’s iTrain is about educating and developing the workforce, especially when information changes often and the workforce is across multiple locations.
This tool can deliver training to staff, check knowledge and show the brand that the staff understand the products. It is bespoke and content can be in any form when uploaded into the modules. Ethos Farm can also develop content.
Walsh describes a typical scenario.
“Our modules include video content, short films, YouTube links, and are filled with fantastic information. We break training down into class segments to be more easily absorbed and so as not to overload the information. We can track remotely what has been downloaded and track online how much of the training each staff person has completed before they begin their shift. We can measure their knowledge with a quiz at the end – 10 or 20 questions created in partnership with the brand to make sure that the team has absorbed the key messages that they need to get across to the customer. We then send this report back to the brand and the brand can say yes, they are good to go, or no, they need more training. With so many travel retail brands in the US based in Miami, company staff are very busy when they come to NY; they don’t have time to train individual sales staff, so that is where we can come in.”
In conclusion, the Ethos Farm team is very excited about the potential they see in the Americas for their services.
“We are hugely experienced in travel retail, offering staffing solutions with the technology that enhances that experience for the brand. Our Latin America specialist, Ellen Alvarez, also has a strong spirits background and brings travel retail and brand experience to the table. We are working with International Shoppes, Heinemann Americas, Bacardi, Estée Lauder, among others, and have been providing recruitment services for Dufry cruises since last November,” says Walsh.
“Between the three of us, Sally, Ellen and I, we feel that we really understand how to select, train and manage a premium caliber of staff. When you are dealing with America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, where the markets are very different, the customers are very different, and the stores are different, how do you assure consistency of service, customer presentation and everything else?”