As restrictions are lifted and Wireless Carriers begin to reopen stores, they will face three new customer satisfaction barriers that could impact the in-store customer experience. With the threat of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases we are seeing a shift in consumer’s perspectives around the in-store shopping experience. Shekel recently sponsored a survey to get feedback on how social distancing might change shopping behavior. With a mixed sample size of 18-60 year-old participants, 87% reported they still prefer shopping inside brick and motor stores over online stores. Of course, it is important to mention that consumers are only willing to shop at physical locations if retailers follow new more stringent guidelines designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The online experience is convenient, but it isn’t personal. No matter how well websites can present products and services, they are limited and cannot be as intimate as the actual product presented in person. Gary Ambrosino, CEO of TimeTrades, a leader in appointment-driven personalization, notes, “The bottom line is customers value the personal experience of the physical store.”
Our research has highlighted three customer satisfaction barriers that may prevent stores from delivering the in-store experiences shoppers crave and why technology is the answer.
Barrier #1: More Maintenance Work for a Smaller In-Store Team
To deliver the best shopper experience, it is important that products are ready for customer interactions: plugged in, charging, and displaying compelling demo content. Due to physical distancing practices required to reopen in most states, many stores have had to sacrifice display space to provide ample room and reduce the number of staff present. Some carriers like T-Mobile have transitioned 2,200 retail employees to work from home. A smaller retail staff will struggle to keep up with the demand from customers. It takes effort and time to ensure all demo devices are properly set up, secured, and at good battery health. If there is an increase in customers, this activity can be hectic for a smaller team. Employees must routinely check up on the devices and make sure they are ready for personal interactions, at the same time they aide each customer with questions or demo requests.
Barrier #2: Longer Waiting Times for Customers
Keeping the store customer-ready takes more time than customers might imagine. Resolving device issues often requires the help of a third-party company (3PL). Since most 3PLs have a reduced staff size as well it will take more time than usual to receive their help. Not to mention in the case of a store reaching its new limited capacity, third-party visitors must wait until someone leaves the building before they can enter. Customers waiting for devices to be fixed can both ruin the personal experience as well as increase wait times. In a TimeTrade Retail Survey, 70% of senior retailer executives reported the average customer will wait only 5 minutes or less before abandoning the store. Yes, each second counts!
Barrier #3: Limited Sanitation Equipment
It is very important to follow the same sanitation procedures for employees as for customers. Shared equipment like security keys will need to be routinely cleaned after each use. Same for the devices presented after each demo. Since many wireless carriers have only one or two keys to arm or disarm products they must share keys amongst multiple employees which in today’s pandemic is a petri dish for germs. Remember customers may decide whether to return based on how the safe sanitation guidelines are being maintained. As you may have noticed getting disinfectant wipes and sprays can be difficult. In a recent Healthline article, Cliff Welborn, PhD, a professor of supply chain management, has reported that the sales of spay disinfectants were up 520% and multipurpose cleaners were almost up 250%. According to Welborn, “manufactures are having a difficult time keeping up with the rise in demand.” Each wipe and spray counts. It is only a matter of time before they run out again.
Why Technology is the Answer:
The pandemic is accelerating the adoption of powerful Internet of Things (IoT) systems to overcome these customer satisfaction barriers. Many retailers are deploying technology solutions such as people counting and virtual queue management to help ensure appropriate social distancing in stores and strong customer service. Solutions like MTI Connect® are transforming the retail experience for wireless carriers by empowering employees with insights and enhanced control of in-store systems from the sales-floor.
MTI Connect® users are given a visual representation of the entire sales floor through a planogram. This allows employees to oversee the battery status, position, and security (unarmed or armed) of each device displayed on the sales floor. These insights and others can be gathered real-time by employees in store. They can diagnose issues using the MTI Connect® app and pass the data to third-party technicians decreasing the wait time for devices to get fixed. With reduced staff and more responsibilities for each employee this technology is a powerful tool to help reduce customer satisfaction barriers.
MTI Connect® may not be able to magically create more sanitized products, but it can be used to help conserve what is already available. Devices can be armed and disarmed through the MTI Connect® app when secured with solutions like Freedom Micro® II HS, CX Flex™, Secure Plug® and MTI Locks™, so employees do not have to share keys that would need to be disinfected after each use. Each employee can also be issued a low cost Versa Key™ which uses encrypted RFID Technology for touchless arming and disarming of devices.
Leveraging in-store technology will help simplify operations for the limited number of employees, give them more time to personalize customer experience, and reduce the amount of disinfecting needed with touchless arming and disarming.
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MTI is a leader in global retail security, with innovative smart retail store software solutions and a global field service provider trusted by many of the world’s most successful consumer electronics retailers and brands. MTI helps clients protect high value products with innovative security solutions augmented by an open IoT platform that enables retailers to close the access control and visibility gaps between management, front line teams, in-store technology and the customer experience. In addition, MTI’s unique global service and contact center reaches over 90 countries globally providing installation, repair and training and brand advocacy solutions to retailers and brands.