PROFILE

Marge Laney

President, Alert Technologies, Inc.

Marge Laney has one thing on her mind – Retail Customer Service. Marge has developed the market for in-store customer facing service technology with her company Alert Tech. With a keen eye for common sense solutions to customer service challenges she has evangelized empowering the customer to access assistance when they need it. This paradigm isn’t all about technology! Marge has not only empowered customers, but reinvigorated retailers. Through progressive and practical training and integration techniques developed at Alert Tech, Marge works with the top chain retailers to capitalize on customer initiated interactions to increase brand loyalty, value perception, and KPIs.

Marge goes out of her way to spread her optimistic and upbeat vision for retail customer service and the retail industry in general. People will spend their hard earned dollar with the retailer that shows them they value the customer, and Marge is excited to help top retailers react to customers in a profitable and efficient way – in the fitting room.

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  • Posted on: 06/20/2016

    Winning digital minds, analog hearts

    The fit experience for apparel retailers will never be successfully satisfied digitally. Shopping may be digital, but the decision to buy is still an analog process requiring the customer to try on before saying, "Yes, I'm going to buy this garment."Customers won't decide to buy until they have tried on an article of clothing, either at home or in the store's fitting room. Between 20 and 50% of apparel purchased online is returned. 70% of that is returned because of fit issues.It's not that virtual fitting shouldn't be allowed, it's that it's simply will never really work, and the resulting returns will always be a fact of life.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2016

    Why aren’t retailers closing more stores?

    I agree with Paula 100%! It’s not that there’s too much brick and mortar retail, it’s that there’s too much of some retailers.Brick and mortar needs to focus on making the customer glad that they made the trip and provide them with an experience that makes their buying decision easier and more enjoyable.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2016

    Walmart Canada to stop taking Visa at the checkout

    Who's running the show up there? First it's getting rid of fitting rooms, now it's limiting purchase options. What's next?Walmart is definitely going to be the loser with these moves. Limiting customers ability to buy is not a smart or sustainable strategy.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2016

    How can online returns be minimized?

    Customers need to try on their selections in order to make their final buying decision. Of the 30 to 50% of apparel purchased online, 70% get returned due to fit issues.Restricting customers from returning items and labeling them as serial returners when they buy more than one size of something and return the rest is ridiculous. They do that hoping to find something that fits! Standardized sizing and virtual dressing rooms can help, but they will never replace actually trying something on for fit, feel, and look.Online returns, especially for apparel, are never going to go away. Ever.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2016

    Does Walmart need fitting rooms?

    All I can say is, WOW! Evidently Walmart thinks that their customers are different from the rest of the world who need to try on clothes before they make a buying decision. They evidently are hoping that more people just give away or throw away clothes that don't fit once they try them on at home rather than returning them to the store which costs them lots of money in payroll and margin.There's only two reasons people use fitting rooms; to make a buying decision or to steal something. Does Walmart believe that their customers mostly use the fitting room to steal rather than make a buying decision?As our ongoing research confirms time and again, the biggest mover of apparel retail conversion is fitting room usage. Period.Walmart would be better served to clean up their fitting room act by creating a clean and secure fitting room environment. They would not only reduce any shrink problems, I guarantee they would sell more.
  • Posted on: 04/25/2016

    Mickey Drexler sends an e-mail to J.Crew customers

    One thing that has to be said about Mr. Drexler is that he really cares about the brand and he wants his customers to love it as much as he does.

    While it might seem to people unfamiliar with him that this is some sort of publicity stunt, I don't think so. He's sincere in his effort to deliver what his customers want and that goes a long way with customers.

    A lot can and is being said about the timing, content, etc. but he added his email address. If you've got a complaint, email him and see what happens. My bet is that you'll be pleasantly surprised.

    Will this direct contact with customers help right the ship? Might help and certainly can't hurt.

  • Posted on: 04/05/2016

    Retailers turn to text to connect with customers

    I think text messaging is a great way to communicate with customers in the moment. If I'm waiting for a fitting room, or a table in a restaurant, texting is a great way to notify the customer that their room or table is ready.

    Or as Cathy pointed out, texting with an associate that you have a personal connection with is fantastic for getting information about new products and services.

    What I really don't like is getting a promotional text message from Papa John's Pizza! I actually just got one! I have never eaten a Papa John's pizza and sending me unsolicited text messages on my phone is definitely not the way to get me to try one.

  • Posted on: 03/15/2016

    True Religion turns to Apple Watch to improve customers’ experiences

    Actually, I disagree with Mr. Hazen. People DO just want to shop, and they want an experience that makes shopping easier and faster. Technology, no matter how cool it is, needs to increase the possibility of easier and faster shopping. The shortest path from question to answer should be the goal for any technology solution.

    Shopping isn't the endgame for consumers, it's the means to an end. Finding and buying what they want when they want it as painlessly as possible is what people desire.

  • Posted on: 01/19/2016

    Should smartphones, tablets or walkie-talkies be the selling floor tech tool?

    Smartphones, tablets, and walkie-talkies are great tools for sales associates on the selling floor with two caveats; first, make sure their use doesn't slow down the selling process and second, keep head-down associate activity on the selling floor to a minimum.

    Nothing turns a customer off more than seeing an associate on the sales floor on their cell phones or other device. They may well be helping a customer in a fitting room or another part of the store, but to the customer nearby looking for help, they are unapproachable.

    In our race to automate the in-store selling process in the name of speed, we need to make sure that we don't end up slowing down the process instead. If I'm in a fitting room and I need a different size or another selection it's probably faster to summon an associate to my fitting room with a call button. In most cases the associate is probably 20 feet away and it will take less time for them to come talk to me than to stand head-down in the middle of the sales floor receiving my message via a tablet.

    The in-store experience is a game of seconds. Extreme care should be taken to not slow down the process with the very technology intended to help.

  • Posted on: 01/12/2016

    Rivals need to up customer experiences to compete with Amazon

    The current discussions about the Amazonization of retail reminds me of the Walmartization of retail discussions of the late '90s and early '00s. Back then it was the conventional wisdom that Walmart was single-handedly going to put everyone out of business.

    Retailers of every ilk were scared to death about the certainty of this behemoth capturing the market share of everything the consumer purchased. To combat the takeover, they attempted to emulate the Walmart model, which, for those that remember, jettisoned the customer experience.

    The reports of the death of brick-and-mortar retail back then were greatly exaggerated. I think the same thing is happening now.

    Retailers need to stop obsessing over the success of Amazon and start focusing on who they are and who their customer is and all that that implies with regard to the expectation of the experience and the service their customer wants.

    Don't believe me? Look at the winners of the brick-and-mortar holiday season. They were laser-focused on their customers' expectations and delivered on their brand promise without giving away the farm.

  • Posted on: 01/08/2016

    Hudson’s Bay newest acquisition is no flash in the pan

    Smart. HBC instantly acquires a huge online subscription client base which puts them in a great position for growth both online and in-store. The challenge for them will be to keep inventory moving fast and keeping it fresh and not just what didn't sell in stores last season.

    I believe that leveraging this tremendous online client base for their full-line stores will be the real win long term and not just an online outlet for Off 5th.

  • Posted on: 01/07/2016

    Will store closings and layoffs fix what ails Macy’s?

    Bob and Paula hit the nail on the head leaving not much more to add. Macy's has been so promotional for so long that they've trained their customers to never buy at full price. Add in the mid-market problem of relevancy of the brand and you're left with an unsustainable operating model long-term.

  • Posted on: 01/06/2016

    Should department stores go back to the future?

    Department stores mainly sell apparel and the decision to buy apparel is mainly made in the fitting room. Department stores have done little to improve the fitting room experience.

    Making the sales floor more fun and engaging is easy. Making the fitting room more fun and engaging is hard. In order for department stores to compete at full price with their specialty store and discount rivals they need to step up their fitting room game.

    The three things that need attention are: design, service and technology. Some have made headway with fitting room design, but service and technology (that works) is still lagging or in most cases non-existent.

    Creating an engaging fitting room experience that brings the brand into the fitting room through design and delivering service that meets the expectations of the customer should be an investment priority.

  • Posted on: 08/19/2015

    Macy’s gets pointers from Hointer on fighting Amazon

    In theory, this sounds like a fast and efficient system. In theory. Connectivity issues can jettison the entire experience and leave the customer stranded in the fitting room not able to get product or connect with a human for assistance. Sort of like a bad online experience, only standing naked in a fitting room!

    One thing I've learned over my twenty plus years in fitting rooms is that any technology that you put in the fitting room must be uncomplicated, intuitive for both the customer and the associate, and work nearly 100 percent of the time or customers will not engage.

    The whole Hointer experience raises the question: Why bother making the trip to the store? If I can only try on and not take it with me, why not just order online and try on at home and make my decision?

  • Posted on: 04/30/2015

    Will a data scientist shortage hurt Big Data’s promise?

    There are plenty of vendors that will slice and dice a retailer's data and provide reports ad nauseam. The problem comes when the retailer tries to use the data to improve and change outcomes. That's where that special person who, as Mark points out, "can translate all the analytic mumbo jumbo into concepts and theories that non-analytic marketers can understand" shines.

    I would argue that the person described in the article is not a pure data scientist. Data scientists focus on the details of data sets and methodology. The person Mark describes lives between the data scientist and the non-data scientist as the embodiment of an unusual mix of computer science, statistics, math and business skills with creative problem solving and clear communication skills.

    I think they are the new CMO.

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