Gaining Adoption for Your Frontline Data Tool

Incorporating change management and innovation across your data-led organization

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Change management has to be conducted the right way in order for any potential frontline data tool to be successful.

Business leaders should know how important their customer-facing teams are, but as we discussed in our previous guide, one of the greatest challenges lies in knowing how to empower these teams to make more informed decisions and delight customers in new ways.

This is particularly true as it relates to rolling out a new data tool, product, or dashboard and bridging the gap between customer-facing employees on the frontline and the corporate office. Change management has to be conducted the right way in order for any potential frontline data tool to be successful. Why is this so crucial?

PwC report on customer experience and intelligence found that 73% of customers consider their interaction with customer service reps as the deciding buying factor. The report also stated that 65% of customers consider positive service experiences as a greater influence on company perception than advertising and other marketing endeavors.

It’s especially critical to consider change management when rolling out a data tool to your frontline, or teams who are not historically data-driven or don’t have that as a skill set. How do you build data literacy with your frontline? How do you make the most of this effort in order to drive adoption? It’s necessary to find the answers to all of these questions in order for any organization to drive real-time impact at every level of the business.

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Communicate Your Vision

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Make sure they understand what the outcomes we’re looking to achieve are, what the controllable drivers of those outcomes are, and the relationship between those things so that people become fluent — they understand how to use that information to drive value to the customer.
Ray Boyle
VP of Data and Analytics
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Why communicating company vision in a way that resonates is vital to frontline data tool adoption

  • Helps bridge corporate goals with the insights of your frontline workforce
  • Provides an opportunity to show how a given solution can benefit frontline employees
  • Makes your frontline feel they are being brought along in the process (as they should be)

Measure what you value, and communicate this to your frontline

When you begin the initial steps of incorporating change management to roll out a data tool to your frontline, you need to consider how you will measure the metrics that are important to your initiative and communicate accountability. This is key to ensuring employees understand what is valued from a cultural perspective and to encourage adoption of the new system.

Traditionally, businesses have gotten themselves stuck in the rut of measuring profit and ROI – things that are vital to leadership and stakeholders but hardly relevant to the daily tasks and pain points of those on the frontline. What’s forgotten are equally important leading metrics like team happiness, customer satisfaction, sales floor cleanliness, and critically, frontline satisfaction metrics. All of these elements can have a direct impact on the implementation of your data solution, and, by extension, have an impact on company success.

Enterprise businesses need to dedicate more of their focus on these frontline lead metrics, as it essentially shows what you value by what you are choosing to measure. Importantly though, it should be clearly communicated to your frontline employees that you’re making these efforts. When they see that you are considering frontline and corporate concerns in more equal measure, they see themselves as a valued part of the organization and will be more likely to adopt your proposed data tool.

Make efforts to improve the data literacy of your frontline workforce

When data exists and a company lacks the tools or culture to enable their frontline workers (let alone all of their other employees) to effectively access and learn from data, businesses miss out on opportunities, employees wind up frustrated, and ultimately, customers suffer. So you need to stress the importance of data literacy to your frontline in a way that they will readily adopt — more on that here.

The ability to “speak data'' should be a fundamental, perhaps even required skill on some level for your frontline employees and across your entire organization. Literacy deficiencies can sabotage both change management and your prospective data tool before it ever really gets off the ground. A recent Gartner Chief Data Officer Survey even found that ‘poor data literacy’ was considered a critical roadblock to creating a more data-driven culture, and by extension, a proficient frontline workforce that can make smarter, data-driven decisions.

You need to be able to find a path to data literacy specific to your workforce, which includes understanding why data literacy matters, what data literacy looks like for each one of your frontline workers (it’s not one size fits all), and how to go about establishing a baseline of employee skills and common data language. Even adding in a layer of tips or guidance into your tool that uses plain language can begin to elevate the data literacy of your frontline.

Empowering your workforce in this way serves as the first step in creating and managing change at a quicker pace. At a minimum, your frontline employees should possess the baseline foundations necessary to establish a common understanding of data at least as it relates to your proposed tool and their unique environment. Even a basic ability to communicate in this way can be a force multiplier toward more effective data-driven decision making. When your employees are more data-literate, they are more effective, which means improved customer experience and bottom line for the business.

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Pull, Don’t Push, Towards Innovation

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People need to know what’s in it for them. Put users at the center and show them the value it’s going to deliver. Bring them along the way through an iterative design process and make sure they’re represented in the solutioning. Create a pull towards the tool vs. a push.
Shauna Bowen
EVP of Operations, Innovation, and eCommerce
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Why providing a frontline-focused value proposition is vital to data tool adoption

  • Provides for a better opportunity for buy-in to your solution from frontline employees
  • Immediately shows how tasks are simplified and made easier for your frontline
  • Greater job proficiency increases employee sentiment; likelihood of adoption

Start with an agile pilot project that has a frontline-focused value proposition

Even if you feel like you have the perfect solution to a frontline issue, you need to ensure your employees see the value it provides to them for effective change management and adoption. That value proposition can’t just be “Because corporate said so.” In our work, we’ve found that if there isn’t a concrete value proposition for your frontline, adoption likely won’t happen. You need to be able to identify and address their biggest pain points and put them in context with the biggest gains leadership wants to see. This value prop needs to somehow make life easier, reduce workload, or otherwise provide immediate value to increase the likelihood of adoption.

Start with an agile pilot project to prove out your concept as quickly and simply as possible as a means to gather initial buy-in. In agile, your priority is always to satisfy data users and stakeholders through early and continuous delivery of valuable solutions.

In this scenario, your priority is now to satisfy your frontline. As the eventual end users of your proposed data tool, frontline employees can provide critical insights to this initial pilot project. Time is critical though, so it’s essential you work in the quick, iterative cycles inherent to the agile process so you can get your solution adopted by your frontline faster.

By taking input from your frontline, acting quickly to show them the frontline-specific value of your solution and simultaneously improving the data literacy of your frontline employees, you are working to solve an inherent problem large organizations encounter with data – getting data to those who need it in a way that they can readily understand and act on.

Bring your frontline through the iterative process of finding your MVD

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We touched on this a bit earlier, but to incorporate real change management successfully into your data tool creation efforts, you will need to involve your frontline workforce and include their concerns when you begin working in iterative cycles as part of the agile process of finding your minimum viable data (MVD). We’ve provided a bit more information on going about finding your MVD here.

In a sense, rather than investing effort in change management after rolling out your new solution, you will invest energy up front with your users to ensure they feel that your dashboard, tool, or product is one worth using. Consider what will most immediately get someone to use the specific tool with a frontline-focused approach.

In the case of a large restaurant chain RevUnit worked with, many of their locations across the country had yet to adopt agile in their change management efforts. Instead of using the worker-facing app provided to them, restaurant workers printed out all of their documents – multiple binders worth of information relevant to their roles – because they addressed their needs better and more immediately than the app in their work setting.

The reason? No pilot program was created in order to make use of the app mandatory, or to gather insights directly from the teams who would be using the tool. As a result, many UX issues were never discovered because there was no opportunity for frontline workers to participate in creating the tool, and not enough team members were willing to use the finished product as a result. Users were blindsided by the rollout due to a lack of research regarding what users wanted out of the app. Start a pilot project early, and involve your frontline workers in order to get change management off the ground.

Spotlight —

A large retail chain was throwing away food at times, while not meeting demand at others.

They needed a way to empower their grocery employees with the right information to effectively meet demand with less waste. The only way employees could access this data was through a tool made for sales people that was difficult to understand.

The organization teamed up with RevUnit to understand what these employees needed in order to respond more quickly and accurately predict demand. Through our research, we were able to uncover the sales, throwaways, and production level metrics that would empower employees to adjust daily production on their own with more accuracy.

This pilot tool gave grocery employees the information they needed to produce the optimal quantities of fresh products, at the right time, and to boost sales in their store. This project eventually led to a larger rollout for employees across the sales floor


Have empathy for the entire process

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It's important to find the intersection between change management and innovation, and communicate it broadly. Innovation requires some level of messiness as teams push the envelope, but in the end it drives growth and success. Lead with clarity across teams rather than ambiguity, and "change management" is no longer a scary term.
Tiernan McGrath
Director of Client Experience
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How having empathy for all parts of the process is vital to frontline data tool adoption

  • Encourages frontline workers to speak up about what they need to help customers
  • Allows individuals to ‘champion’ your proposed tool and assist with buy-in
  • Provides opportunity for feedback on how to continuously improve the tool

Encourage providing top-down support to your frontline

Before you even begin to have the ability to involve members of your frontline workforce into the iterative design process of your data tool, leadership needs to convey that they support them in their daily endeavors, and that their success on the frontline means success for the entire organization. As such, frontline workers need to be allowed and encouraged to stand up and say “This is what I need to better serve the customer.”

At the same time, they should be empowered to start grassroots efforts with other frontline employees to show both how their requests are important and how fulfilling them would provide value to the company.

At the most empowered organizations, frontline employees are not just able to take action based on data and insight provided to them; they’re encouraged to go beyond the scope of what their jobs encompassed in the past to operate more autonomously. This should be equally true of your organization for successful change management and tool adoption.

Always strive to use empathy when making decisions regarding your frontline during this process. Don’t just step into your frontline workers’ shoes for one day. Make continuous efforts towards further improvement and hold recurring, proactive meetings with your frontline employees to see how the process is going. Another thing you can do – create incentives for frontline workers to take action. Add in earned rewards or public recognition from the top down for those individuals who are leveraging the tool in the right way. Behavior change comes from what you reward.

Work to understand and address frontline apprehension to change

In order to innovate, we must change. That can be a scary concept on an organizational level because it takes adaptation – but innovation drives success. So innovation inherently necessitates change management. In this way, it may be more beneficial to refer to change management as innovation, if only to make it sound less daunting to those you’re rolling your dashboard, tool, or product to.

To make this innovation easier on your frontline employees, you’ll want to understand their reasons behind being resistant to change. They may already feel overloaded; they may not understand why it’s important to their jobs. There may be lack of buy-in at lower levels or lack of familiarity with a new tool, or even workers jaded by (yet another) top-down change. Take the time to understand the human element of your frontline’s opportunities and challenges to strike a balance with data in order to have decision-making processes that affect business goals.

To help with this, it’s a good idea to find and designate frontline ‘champions’ – people who understand and advocate the value of your proposed tool – especially when word of mouth is so critical to adoption. By operating with your users in mind and including ‘champions’ through the process, you’ll build a product people want that will require little to no change management necessary going forward.

Incorporate a feedback mechanism for continuous understanding of how your tool is working

Now, just because you’ve incorporated change management into your process and provided your proposed data tool or solution to your frontline doesn’t mean your work is complete. The new iterations and continuous efforts you make for further improvement to your tool are vital to carrying on the change management process. The most straightforward way to do this is to create a regular cadence of touching base with your frontline workers to see what elements of the tool aid in the workflow, and what, if any, parts of the solution slow them down or otherwise cause problems in their workflow.

For example, RevUnit worked with a large fast food restaurant chain that began scheduling ten-minute meetings with program directors and store managers to talk about recent changes that had been rolled out company wide. Even with this brief amount of time, it provided them with the opportunity to ask “What’s working, what’s not?” which resulted in a more accurate and insightful product snapshot across restaurant locations.

By triaging the post-rollout concerns of your frontline workers in this fashion, the individuals who are on the floor, interacting with customers and regularly using your new tool, you are effectively addressing your frontline’s UX needs in a way that they themselves prioritized. In this way, you’re involving your frontline employees directly in the improvement of the tool fueled by insights that only they have. Maintaining a structure like this and involving your frontline in the discussion surrounding continuous improvements to your tool is essential for success.

Spotlight —

How encouraging speaking up led to an AI-powered chatbot improving customer experience and answering 8 million frontline queries

Prior to changes rolled out on one of our retail client’s sales floor, frontline workers were often very reluctant to reach out or ask questions regarding things that went beyond the initial training they received. Once this was made clear to leadership, an AI-powered virtual assistant chatbot sitting atop a vast employee knowledge base was created with their specific needs in mind. With this tool at their disposal, it turned out these frontline workers were willing to ask almost any question in relation to their work.

By making this resource available to the frontline, particularly in a way that eliminated that feeling of apprehension, employees were eager to become more knowledgeable of their roles without feeling exposed about not being completely proficient. The employees were also able to learn more efficiently by referring to the digital assistant compared to traditional training. Eventually, common, repetitive tasks like item lookup saw a time reduction of 40% with this technology.


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Wrapping Up

There’s one thing we need to make clear. If we’re talking about adoption as a form of change management, then there will always be competing interests between business leadership and the frontline user. Finding the right balance helps to allow your frontline workers to self-select and jump on board with a given initiative more quickly and with greater conviction. It’s when there is a lack of vision, purpose, and clarity when things fall apart. It’s up to you to find the right balance for your organization, make your vision clear from the top down, and encourage input from the bottom up.

To make adoption more likely and more enjoyable, your frontline employees need the space to speak up in regard to what they need to help the customer, they should be trained to be data literate, and they should become more involved in the creation of your data dashboard, tool, or product from the start.

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