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Digital is Not Only Customer Facing

By Miller Zell

You’re starting to plan a store refresh, which will include a significant advancement of your digital and mobile customer experiences. As a part of your holistic, strategic process, consider a simple customer experience scenario.

A shopper can’t find what he’s looking for and he’s growing frustrated. He engages a store associate.

Pretty basic, but what happens next determines so much — and not just the sale.

According to Google Research, “Two in three shoppers who tried to find information within a store say they didn’t find what they needed, and 43 percent of them left frustrated.”

The stakes are high when it comes to customer satisfaction, as those who receive excellent service will probably return to the store and potentially become brand advocates. And the opposite is true for the customer who receives poor service. Notably, 70% of consumers worldwide believe a company is only as good as its customer service.

But shopper experiences that are bolstered by great customer service foster something nearly as important: great associate experiences. When empowered and engaged associates are confident in what they are doing, they provide outstanding service and find their jobs satisfying, perhaps even enjoyable.

And the opposite is also true.

Happy associates, better bottom line

The so-called “Great Resignation” has been a big story over the past two years, with retail, hotel and restaurant workers leading a long line of those leaving jobs. It isn’t just about wages and benefits, either.

Take the above case. Imagine the store associate immediately knowing she can solve this irritated customer’s problem. She pulls out her tablet and quickly says with confidence:

“Sir, your product was recently relocated. It’s now on aisle 11. Let me take you there.”

“... your product is not on the shelf in aisle 11, but we have it in the back. I’ll get it for you.”

“... your product is out of stock here, but our store three miles away has it. Would you like me to arrange a pick-up?”

“... your product is out of stock here, but I can arrange a home delivery for tomorrow.”

“... your product is out of stock here, but we have another brand that is just as good. Would you like to see it?”

Conversely, imagine how it goes when the associate can’t find the product and can’t help the already frustrated customer. Often such interactions escalate into unpleasant exchanges. Not only will that alienate the customer, but also the resultant stress and anxiety for the associate will make it more difficult to retain her.

Just four years ago, 72 percent of retail workers agreed or strongly agreed that “It is basically my own responsibility to decide how my job gets done.” And just three percent received training through a mobile app. Those numbers won’t work in today’s marketplace.

Digital solutions that reduce associate friction

Digital integration into retail, restaurants and most branded environments massively accelerated over the previous two years. That started with safety and convenience, but it morphed into a rapidly evolving part of customer expectations.

For example, according to Google Research, “71 percent of in-store shoppers who use smartphones for online research say their device has become more important to their in-store experience.”

So, as you envision your refreshed stores and their omnichannel digital experiences, make sure that your holistic plan addresses three questions specifically pertaining to your associates:

  1. What associate pain points will you solve?
  2. How will your digital/mobile tools improve your associate experience and help them interact with customers?
  3. What’s your plan to train associates with your new digital tools?

Empowering associates and improving operational performance is a critical part of all store refreshes, particularly the digital components. Associates want a fun, interesting and rewarding working environment. They want to feel successful and even learn. Fostering such an environment helps not only hiring and retention, but it also inevitably becomes part of a business’s public reputation. 

Digital solutions that support the customer/associate experience and operational performance focus on:

  • Employee mobile apps & tools
  • Product wayfinding
  • Customer help requests
  • Inventory management
  • Wait time/queue management
  • Interaction and engagement analytics

Associates who are confident that, for example, the tablet they carry around will improve any customer interaction, even a challenging one, will be happier, more engaged and, yes, loyal to your brand. That speaks to operational ease and efficiency, augmented customer interaction and inventory and informational support.

When refreshing your branded environment and improving your digital experiences, don’t ignore the intersection between customer and associate experience. Make them both better.

 

 

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