Tech-Savvy Retail Employees Provide Better Customer Experiences

Posted by on Jul 26, 2012 in Retail | 8 Comments

Lemur Customer Interface

The most valuable asset that retailers possess is not the products on their shelves, but the tech-savvy associates on their floors. Competition in the retail space is growing exponentially as each day goes by. Big-box retail locations are searching for answers on how to fight off both opposing storefronts as well as online retailers. Less foot traffic into retail locations means fewer at-bats to close more business. Sales are down and at their worst for retailers since 2008 causing some to call today a Retail Recession. While “show-rooming” is constantly looming in the back of every retail manager’s mind, the experience itself is the real issue that needs to be addressed. If shoppers are constantly walking into brick and mortar locations to see the products for themselves, the opportunity still presents itself for that shopper to become a buyer today and a loyal customer for years to come.

Unfortunately, this is not the case because most times when shoppers walk into retail locations they are not given the experience that makes them want to buy. Either there are not enough sales associates on the floor to help, or it seems that when one is available they are not able to answer the questions posed to live up to the “expert” title. The truth of the matter is this; technology seems to be on it’s way to a store near you but that alone will not solve the in-store retail dilemma. Retailers need to put this technology in the hands of their most valuable assets, it’s employees. To stay competitive and rise above the rest, the true differentiator that no online avenue can ever replicate is the expertise that store associates can offer. This is the reason that Apple’s brick and motor template has empowered them to open over 300 stores in the past 5 years nationally and that figure is growing. The experts, or specialists as Apple calls their associates, are the “keystones of the Apple retail model because Apple hires devoted fans who know that delivering the right advice is far more valuable than selling product.” The right advice takes time, so Apple has invested in having more employees on the floor than they know what to do with. Using their in-store analytics, each store schedules at least 1 employee to every 5 customers they believe will walk into their location. There is never a wait for help.

Employees at retail locations want to succeed and do well in their jobs, just like anybody else. It’s hard to be on a sales floor and notice that there are more customers than you can handle while still focusing on the customer right in front of you. While retail is evolving and changing, invest more in the asset that will always be the front line and ultimately decide the fate of your business, the employee. Service, at it truest state, is what the employee brings to the table. At the end of the day, success of the evolving retail experience hinges the shoulders of the people that run the sales floor who can effectively utilize these new technologies.

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8 Comments

  1. Ali
    July 27, 2012

    Good article! I saw something on WSJ saying that Best Buy and Microsoft are adpoting Apple’s retail strategy.

    Here is the BB article:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303684004577507033027128596.html?mod=WSJ_qtoverview_wsjlatest

    Funny how a company can lose their edge so quickly!

    Reply
    • Asad Ali
      July 30, 2012

      @Ali Great article you referenced. You notice more stores are adopting a less intrusive, more friendly merchandising and sales approach to help their shoppers. The service portion goes directly on how retailers train their associates to treat the experience.

      It cannot be just selling you something after ready on a tag like @Ashely Holley mentioned in her post. Customers today are researching the same specs at their fingertips on their phones. They need an experience that helps them tailored to their wants and needs.

      @Thang Nguyen I have seen this on many occasions myself. Many people would immediately cut costs with labor on the floor when times are rough, but the Apple way has proved to provide something different and more appealing to customers because they are knowledgeable experts and provide value.

      Thank you for your posts @Joshua Panwala @Joel Koch and @Bridgett Beard as well!

      Reply
  2. Joshua Panwala
    July 27, 2012

    Completely agree. There’s not too much more frustrating than waiting in line for help, only to be told to wait longer because the employee isn’t knowledgeable.

    Reply
  3. Thang Nguyen
    July 27, 2012

    Great article! I realize that Apple’s store do have more employees than customers from time to time.

    Reply
  4. Ashley Holley
    July 27, 2012

    Agreed! I do not like someone telling me the same information that is already written on the box and not being able to provide anymore than that. I want to speak to someone who has personal experience with the product at hand and can explain to why or how it can be essential to my life.

    Reply
  5. Joel Koch
    July 28, 2012

    I completely agree with this article because customer service is the most important aspect of retail. Sometimes products do sell themselves but in most cases the employees are the ones who show the full potential of the product to the customers. Great article!

    Reply
  6. Bridgett Beard
    July 29, 2012

    Great blog Ali. I completely agree with everything stated. More companies should realize that employee knowledge and customer service is vital. It can make or break a business. Thank you for sharing your insight and I look forward to future blogs from you.

    Reply
  7. Naveed
    July 30, 2012

    At a time when retailers are cutting labor and consolidating job roles, this article gets straight to the point: investing training time into associates pays dividends! When a consumer can purchase all manner of goods online, the only reason many walk into a store is to ask questions. To turn that “shopper into a buyer today and loyal customer for years to come” takes initiative, knowledge and good customer service. Pairing a well-trained associate with the technology to identify customer needs, such as Lemur IMS, will change the game in favor of brick and mortar retailers, like Best Buy. Can’t wait to see it in action!

    Reply

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