10 Feb Augmenting Customer Service
I recently read an article stating that technology is like water, and we must learn to swim. Interesting analogy about technology, though the key part was that it still referred to people. So how do companies integrate technology with their people, whilst still giving them a purpose?
People are relying on digital channels and social media to make decisions on everything from how to plan their holidays, fashion/home styling tips and where to get the best price. Digital sources are empowering and educating people. Customers no longer walk into a retail store and ask for the sales assistant’s advice, instead they turn to social media for advice. Retailers are in turn developing new approaches in order to respond to this change.
Retail spaces are becoming social, educational and cultural hubs that are curated with relevant experiences for their demographic. Store staff are up-skilled to provide advice on best reads, local restaurants or art shows by referencing tools provided in-store.
Samsung’s NYC experience centre features a cafe at which customers are required to use a Samsung tablet or smartphone to place their order and digitally submit to the barista. This approach educates customers about the functions and capability of the brand’s product. Staff at the centre are tasked with using in-store tools to educate customers. This is becoming a rising trend, with other fashion and lifestyle brands such as Lulu Lemon who refer to their sales staff as ‘educators’ not sales staff.
Kate Spade New York no longer employ ‘sales staff’, they employ local ‘muses’. Kate Spade muses from Hong Kong to San Francisco know about the best local eats, local fashion trends and are spirited, fun people that customers find interesting and want to get to know. They embody the brands’ mantra of ‘living colourfully’. Muses are given in store tools such as letter writing stations using Kate Spade stationary which they then mail for their customers, pin boards with maps of ‘colourful’ things to do in the neighbourhood, styling racks with Jcrew staples in the fitting room for styling advice, and ‘dare cards’ to dare customers to do something colourful! These elements incorporated into a physical space, stimulate new and fresh ways to engage, educate, discuss, be inspired and most importantly be empowered rather than ‘sold to’. The strategy has paid off with significant sales uplift and most importantly a large shift in customer return rate. This is a clear example of where technology and experience are crucial partners in a successful customer engagement strategy.
Online brands are also evolving. Retailers such as Shoes of Prey, Birchbox, and Warby Parker are moving from a pure online presence into physical spaces to engage emotionally with their customers. Warby’s environments focus on story telling through books. Stores are designed to look like old fashioned libraries and are equipped with books as visual props and through book exchange programs both in store and in public places such as parks. Education and healthcare also a key focus with the integration of eye examination rooms, physical photo booths connected to social media, and maps on best local places to read books. A ‘writers block’ is provided as a literal table top block for customers to get creative and write their thoughts on the table (aka ‘writers block’). Store staff training sessions are publicised on social media platforms such as Instagram to convey the importance Warby Parker place on educating their staff who in turn educate their customers. Brands like Ebay are opening pop-ups through collaborations with retailers such as Kate Spade Saturday. Their temporary shop-able digital store fronts boasted one hour local delivery, and allowed customers to see physical product and pay for it digitally via integrated touch screens. These brands are using technology as a tool to create relevant and memorable experiences by instigating a two way dialogue with their customers.
Technology may be like water in which we need to learn to swim. But if staff are given the right skills and the tools, they can use that technology to create genuine relationships and emotive experiences that a tap on the screen can’t deliver.
*Image source: NYMag.com