Selecting safety footwear: Why not walk into a computer kiosk?

May 3, 2012
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Everyone can agree that the economic landscape has shifted significantly over the last few years. The economy is struggling. But safety programs cannot take a back seat on the priority list. The reality is, though, to ensure survival, many companies and safety departments have been forced to make cuts to their benefits programs, their budgets, and their personnel. Safety managers have had to do more with less.

Traditional process

Typically, organizing a safety shoe program involves several individuals and departments including accounting, purchasing, and health and safety. Everyone involved can tell you that having to do more with less is easier said than done, and managing a safety shoe program means juggling a lot of moving parts.

First, you have to coordinate the best date available for both managers and workers and then synchronize that date with the safety footwear vendor to schedule a shoemobile visit. Then you have to determine with the vendor what limited selection of shoes you want to be available on the truck and explain how the invoicing needs to work. And when the actual shoemobile visit does occur, employee productivity drops significantly as everyone waits around for their chance to browse, try on and purchase their safety footwear. Afterward, all sales slips have to be entered and matched with the invoice. It’s a lengthy process that takes a lot of time and energy to coordinate.

Demand for efficiency

For any company to survive and grow it is absolutely essential to maximize efficiency and eliminate complexity in every way possible. Companies requiring a safety shoe program are no exception, and it may mean moving away from the traditional shoemobile method of procuring footwear. Fortunately, various safety footwear providers are also embracing and using the advancement of technology to innovate and increase the ease of once inundating manual tasks.

Technology changes

Technology has created several new options for managing and conducting a safety footwear program. One of the biggest shifts is the option to switch purchasing methods from the conventional shoemobile or catalog to ordering safety footwear via electronic means. There are several viable benefits to ordering online, such as lower prices and expanded style selection. According to a 2009 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, 77 percent of the population has access to the Internet. Plus, the accessibility of the Internet continues to grow substantially due to the proliferation of smart phones. Despite these significant benefits and statistics, many companies are still apprehensive of their employees’ ability to access the Internet to make their required safety footwear purchase.

Benefits of a kiosk

Some safety footwear companies combat this possible reluctance by bringing a computer kiosk to the worksite. Kiosks are typically set up to directly access the company’s uniquely tailored online account, which ensures employees purchase only the safety footwear that is approved for their specific workplace needs.

These stand-alone computer kiosks are often placed in an easily accessible location such as a break area or cafeteria. Employees can purchase their safety footwear at their convenience while on break or at lunch and not interrupt their day visiting a shoemobile in a scheduled window of time. With 24-hour, on-site access, no longer do businesses have to worry about accommodating employees’ various work shifts.

Online shoe programs can utilize voucher programs the same way they are used today in retail stores. The vendor provides and distributes a paper voucher that has the company’s subsidy authorization via a unique numeric indicator. When that numeric indicator is applied to an online purchase, a charge is triggered to the employer for the subsidy amount.

Kiosks can also be customized with the company’s invoicing, subsidy options or payroll deduction program. Billing and invoicing can be done electronically to allow 24/7 access to the necessary information and data. To ensure security and compliance, electronic vouchers can often be distributed to employees so they can only access their company subsidy once.

Finding the right fit

The concern of getting proper fitting footwear is a common hurdle; that is why almost all safety shoe retailers provide free shipping and returns to take away any anxiety associated with sizing and comfort.

Most online vendors offer a “Live Chat” feature. This is an easy way for electronic shoppers to receive immediate support and get answers to their sizing questions.

Another common option is for vendors to provide a measuring device to be placed directly by the kiosk for convenience. This can be anything from an actual Brannock device (the foot measuring instrument commonly found at a shoe store), to a floor mat with sizing instructions and indicators.

Also, many users are experienced with online shopping for footwear, so they come equipped with the knowledge they need for a successful transaction.

Doing more with less

On top of the custom options available through kiosks, prices can be significantly reduced due to the elimination of the overhead costs involved with shoemobiles, such as repairs, gas and staff. Sometimes additional incentive discounts may also be offered simply for setting up a web account and choosing to order online.

Having a kiosk on site that is completely custom-fit to a company’s needs provides peace of mind to safety managers that all employees are in 100-percent compliance with the mandated safety shoe program and will stay safe on the job. And allowing employees to purchase their own safety footwear and no longer having to go through the tedious process of coordinating shoemobile visits certainly allows safety managers more time to focus on other crucial tasks and responsibilities.

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