How Pepperfry is driving engagement for its workforce driving the frontline

The online furniture marketplace actively listens to its frontline employees, which reinforces in them a sense of being valued


Frontline employees hold immense importance in furniture and home-décor stores. In fact, at Pepperfry, an online marketplace for furniture and home décor, the frontline team constitutes 55 per cent of the workforce. This workforce handles many significant tasks, with the supply-chain personnel even engaging with customers in various capacities.

It is not just the supply chain but many of the other departments in the company that rely heavily on frontline staff. The company’s activation team — which primarily focuses on its retail operations — includes studio managers, home consultants, area managers and regional managers  There is also a modular team consisting of design partners and consultants who handle the design and modular aspects of the business. Additionally, there is the marketing team as well as customer-service agents, directly collaborating with influencers.

With so many departments comprising frontline employees, the company ensures an excellent performance metrics to help these employees deliver the best results.

Performance measurement

“Each function within an organisation has distinct performance measures tailored to their specific departments,” points out Joee De Choudhury, lead – human resources, Pepperfry.

The performance of the teams in the studios is assessed based on their ability to attract customers (measured by footfalls) and their success in converting those footfalls into actual sales. These conversions can be assessed both on a studio-wide basis and individually, for each employee.

Similarly, for the supply chain and customer service, the metrics include the net promoter score and the percentage of refunds, which are important indicators of delivery quality and customer satisfaction. For the customer-service team, the metrics include the first response time within the service-level agreement, average call-handling time, customer-service score from audits and customer satisfaction. “We strive to minimise damages and ensure on-time delivery to reduce the need for refunds. Additionally, the efficiency parameters include evaluating the assembly process and assessing how well the delivery team and customer-service team interact with customers,” explains Choudhury.

The results or feedback from these performance metrics help the company resolve many underlying concerns that frontline employees may have. This is done through a quarterly-review cycle where the company utilises numerical data to evaluate an employee’s performance on a quarter-to-quarter basis.

“Our performance-management system is an ongoing process — we intervene whenever necessary during the quarter to provide support and assistance. At the beginning of each quarter, we establish targets for the entire quarter, but reviews are conducted on a monthly basis,” reveals Choudhury.

How does the system work? Well, the specific target — to be achieved by the end of the quarter— is divided into three parts, and accordingly, there is a monthly check-in. Additionally, a mid-quarter check is also performed. “This approach ensures that team leaders and managers are well informed of the set targets and each employee’s performance,” explains Choudhury.

Furthermore, the company also tracks each employee’s performance over the previous two or three quarters to gain a comprehensive understanding of their progress, and then intervenes wherever necessary.

In the studio department, for instance, the company focuses on three key metrics — footfall, footfall conversion and individual sales. In one particular studio, it was found that the footfall was high, and the conversion rate aligned with the footfall. However, when comparing two employees within the same studio, it was found that that one employee had a higher conversion rate than the other. To address this, the company tried to find the primary issues — whether it’s more about footfall or conversion. Since footfall and conversions were satisfactory, it was realised that the concerned employee required performance-management interventions. The managerial team’s conversations with the employees revealed that the employees of that particular studio needed more product knowledge.

When it comes to issues in sales consultations, the company offers support in the relevant form. For instance, if an employee has adequate product knowledge but is struggling to interact effectively with customers, then the company focuses on interventions to improve the employee’s customer-interaction skills.

“By conducting quarterly reviews, we identify these issues at an early stage, allowing us to intervene and address them in a timely manner. In our supply chain, for instance, if we notice assembly issues, we have established metrics and processes to incorporate customer-service tests within the assembly. This enables us to pinpoint the exact problem area and manage it promptly,” shares Choudhury.

These quarter-on-quarter goals make the reviewing process different for the frontline employees compared to non-frontline employees.

“We strive to minimise damages and ensure on-time delivery to reduce the need for refunds. Additionally, the efficiency parameters include evaluating the assembly process and assessing how well the delivery team and customer-service team interact with customers.”

Joee De Choudhury, lead – human resources, Pepperfry

“At the organisational level, the company establishes five or six goals at the beginning of the year, which is same for both frontline and non-frontline employees. However, the latter often have a longer timeline to achieve their goals. The former have very objective-driven goals, such as specific key results and numerical targets that must be achieved quickly. These ultimately contribute to the larger organisational goal of revenue delivery, among others,” enunciates Choudhury.

Recognition and engagement initiatives

What makes this rigorous review process more engaging? It is the level of participation of the frontline staff. “I take pride in saying that we have 100 per cent participation, not just in performance reviews but also in other activities,” admits Choudhury. To maintain this engagement and interest level, the company has many recognition initiatives in place.

Pulse check: At the end of each quarter, the company conducts a pulse check to understand how the employees are feeling. The employees are presented with a set of 12 questions to gauge their satisfaction within the organisation and understand whether they feel recognised, appreciated and aware of their goals and objectives.

Fun certifications: The company presents frontline employees with fun certificates, such as ‘ParamparaPratishtaAnushasan’ for those who consistently achieve their targets, and the prestigious ‘Main jahan khada hota hun, line wahi se shuru hoti hai’  certificate for those who achieve the highest performance in the quarter. These certificates, along with other recognition efforts, are issued at the end of every quarter, making employees feel appreciated for their hard work.

Founder’s club: This initiative provides frontline employees with opportunities to lunch and interact with the founders of the organisation, which serves as a great source of motivation.

Internal mobility: Pepperfry prioritises internal promotions for employees who consistently perform well, instead of looking for external hires. “We not only claim to value internal growth but actively practise it, which reinforces our employees’ sense of being valued. I cannot recall the last time we hired a team lead for customer service from outside the company,” shares Choudhury.

Those joining the organisation as agents are presented with opportunities to apply for team lead positions through internal job transfers and postings. Their performance is assessed through interviews and they are offered a chance to become team leads. “There is ample proof of this internal growth opportunity too, for 12 home consultants have been elevated to studio managers and three or four studio managers have gone on to become area managers in the last three months,” shares Choudhury proudly.

Employee development: Employees are also aware that performance reviews are not solely focused on meeting targets but also demonstrate the management’s interest in their development. Therefore, they take these as an opportunity to showcase their skills. They compete in interdepartmental competitions and contests organised by the company at the end of each quarter.

“Our newsletters also highlight employee performance, further emphasising the importance of these reviews. As a result, employees take these reviews seriously and respond with active participation,” points out Choudhary.

Productivity measurement: Along with recognition and engagement, it’s equally important to measure and maintain the productivity levels in all departments. “When it comes to determining high- or low-productivity benchmarks, it’s important to note that our product line is unique compared to other online companies,” points out Choudhury. Therefore, when setting targets, the company considers previous trends, current trends and future forecasts. For instance, it analyses sales performance during a particular quarter over the past three years and the preceding three quarters. It also considers market scenarios and location-specific factors. “It’s crucial to set competitive targets that can be achieved with effort, avoiding easily-attainable goals that lead to a lack of satisfaction. We take into account past trends and specific seasons when demand may increase, such as holidays,” concludes Choudhury.

Comment on the Article

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

six + 12 =