Retail Customer Experience: Technology Should Create Better Customer Interaction
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Customer Experience, a daily news portal devoted to helping retailers differentiate the shopping experience.
A panel at the Retail Customer Experience Executive Summit in Minneapolis exploring how technology can help empower sales associates agreed that technology should never replace human interaction. In fact, it should increase one-on-one interaction.
“The thing about technology is that it’s cool, so it’s neat to have things in your stores, but we’re a firm believer that customers are not getting in their cars to go to stores just to interface with technology or walk over to a touchscreen,” John Christie, AT&T Mobility’s executive director of retail sales operations, said. “They want to interact with people. Our technology allows our employees to get out from behind the counter and interact with customers.”
That technology includes tablets, kiosks and digital screens to not only simplify the queuing process, but to also assure customers that they’ll quickly receive help. Customers either check in with iPad-carrying employees or on kiosks as they enter AT&T stores. Digital screens display customer names, allowing them to easily view who’s next in line. On the back-end, Mr. Christie said, the system also provides employees with each client’s needs and order history.
“We’re faced with high volumes of customers coming in, and this allows employees to see who is in line, why they’re there and what offers they are eligible for,” Mr. Christie said. “They can have a very focused, direct conversation, and customers like that.”
Like AT&T, Tim Williams, retail project manager at Cabela’s, said one of the outdoor retailer’s goals is to communicate to its customers that it understands their needs.
“We’re looking to see how we can use mobility to connect with our customers,” he said. “Mobility transforms the way that our (employees) can interact with customers. Just being able to put that power in the associates’ hands gives them a total connection to the customer.”
NEC’s Graeme Spicer added, “A frustration comes when (you’re) bringing technology into a retail space for the sake of having a cool technology. It may not be the sexiest of applications, but we know that digital signage is changing shopping behaviors. We also know that it helps free up time for sales associates to do some higher-value-added stuff.”
For example, a Cabela’s employee may use the time he’d normally spend on giving price info — now displayed by a digital screen — on chatting to that customer about what he specifically wants in a pair of boots.
“That associate can dedicate that time to really help understand the customer,” Mr. Spicer said.
Discussion Questions: How should mobile and digital technologies empower sales associates? What will likely be the main hurdles in realizing the vision of a mobile-empowered employee?