Part 2: Brick-and-Mortar, The New Frontier (and Original)

The Call Center is the Other Blind Spot

Although organizations often refer to their call-center system as CRM, it is actually a contact management software (CMS). The front-end of a CMS is telephony (e.g. “What’s the call about?”) and automated experiences. The service representative will log the call and ask for customer information. They’ll also attempt to look up the customer, then reply to their issue or request. A CRM does not have access to the single view customer (SVC). This is quite remarkable.

If the customer has never called the system before, it’s likely they are new to the system. Customer service representatives can only log the call and try to resolve the issue or provide follow-up steps. Are they angry with the customer? Is he/she entitled to information about the order? Is she looking to exchange an item? Customer service representatives are trying to resolve the issue with the customer. They also try to navigate between the order management system (OMS) and point-of-sale systems (POSS), trying to find out the problem with their purchase. It’s difficult work, as it stands right now.

Customer service representatives should be able to quickly perform a customer search to access all information about customers, including purchase history, past service contacts, and customer intelligence. What does customer intelligence mean? I refer to lifetime value, segmentation and lifecycle stage. Also, product recommendations. Imagine the impact that a trained service professional can have on a customer’s life if they are armed with this information in a face-to-face interaction.

How do you do it? If you have the ability to create new screens using your CMS, then one way to do it is to publish the SVC to the cloud and to create APIs to deliver SVC payloads to these new screens. First API is the customer lookup. This can be done using name, ZIP code, email address or receipt number. The second API is for the customer profile. Once the candidate record has been found, the complete set of data will be delivered to the second API. Your system will look more like a CRM once the CMS gives SVC access to the call center service rep.

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Stores: Keep Up With The Times, But Don’t Slow Down

It can slow down transactions and make it difficult to look up customers in-store. The potential impact on the in-store customer experience is more than technology issues like the ones we just mentioned. Store associates may not have a clear view of the customer they are trying to serve, and this can cause the business to be frozen in time.

Retailers will find these obstacles less daunting if they offer a more relaxed and longer shopping experience. You have the opportunity to talk to the customer and get to know them. Retailers can give their associates more control over customer service by providing an enhanced user interface for the POS. For example, associate tablets with customer lookup APIs to SVC.

Lookups can be automated for retailers that are more dynamic and often in high demand. There are many technologies available, including the Internet of Things (IoT), improved networks in stores and malls, beacons, and mobile device users. Customers who are preferred add their loyalty card and give permission for location services to their phone. The beacon then captures the loyalty identification of the customer and fires up customer lookup APIs and customer profile APIs when they approach the store. A trained associate will know who the customer is and how to serve them best once they cross the threshold. They can start with a complete view of the customer.

Brick-and-Mortar and Experience

Do you know the person you are talking to when you meet with your customer face-to–face? It is important to. Multichannel retailers’ e-commerce stores account for between 10 and 15 percent of their revenue. That’s a very large store. Even then, 85 percent comes from brick-and mortar. Retailers must deliver the same intelligence to their stores as they do on their ecommerce websites.

Amazon is the digital giant. It’s planning to open more stores. Every Whole Foods store can now be an Amazon location, thanks to the acquisition. What do you think Amazon will do in its stores? Better get ready.

The “Retail Apocalypse”, however, isn’t that apocalyptic. Despite closings, retail stores won’t disappear; they are evolving. Retail stores and malls are evolving to be more experiential. This is the next big thing. This destination will also include food, drink, and entertainment. Let’s plan for the future of shopping.

Mailboxes still have lots of catalogs. Inboxes still get emails. Mall and retail experiences are improving. Millennials like experiences. We all love experiences, and always have. People want brick-and-mortar to deliver what they need, even though their customer service is focused on one view of them: the customer.






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Gymboree Files for Bankruptcy and Liquidation Likely For All Its Stores

A person familiar with the situation said that Gymboree Group, a children’s clothing retailer, is likely to file for bankruptcy protection this week. This would be its second bankruptcy filing within less than two years. According to a person familiar with the situation, Gymboree Group expects to close many of its roughly 900 stores under the Janie, Jack and Crazy 8 brands. The person stated that Gymboree Group is trying to sell Janie and Jack, its premium brand which could save the brand and its approximately 139-store footprint.

Total Retail’s Turn: The forecast for last year was coming true and it appears that this news is now being realized. Gymboree was unable to make a profit due to the debt it incurred from its 2010 buyout. Slow sales were the final nail in the coffin for Gymboree. Gymboree could become the first retailer to close its doors in 2019 after filing for bankruptcy and liquidating its stores. Unfortunately, there may be other retailers that follow in the footsteps of Gymboree’s bankruptcy filings (see Sears).