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By Matt Vallone

Question: Do you know how long your customers wait on average to get a product from a retail cabinet?

If your stores limit access to keys, the answer is, too long.  Which also means that customers most likely buy fewer items and aren’t happy with the in-store experience.

Naturally, I’m not suggesting reducing retail security to improve customer experience and revenue. Quite the opposite, in fact. MTI’s mission is to help prevent internal and external theft and shrink.

However, I do believe securing inventory must go hand in hand with empowering employees to provide faster customer service. How? By allowing them to access those items quicker without making trade offs that sacrifice asset protection.

Let’s investigate the issue further.

impatient customer

The Cost of Long Customer Waiting Times

Customers loathe waiting. Too many of us must wait by the retail cabinet until the staff hands us our desired product. This is an experience we as consumers remember and will associate that with a negative overall brand perception.

And most customers have little patience. 75% of retailers who took part in the Retail Industry Executive Survey reported losing customers due to waiting times. 70% admitted their customers would wait less than 5 minutes before abandoning the purchase.

The survey also found people leave stores due to confusing in-store experiences, having to look for a product for too long or waiting for a manager to open a retail cabinet and hand over the product.

Why Customers Have to Wait So Long?

      1. One reason is the restricted product access and internal shrink.  Retailers that participated in a 2018 NRSS say that internal theft amounted to 33.2% of inventory shrink in 2017.
        All while the inventory offers the opportunity to give customers an interactive experience with a product while combating potential theft for a retailer. However, by limiting employee access in-store to sellable goods, customers have to wait longer to buy an item increases for several reasons:
      2. Keys go missing. The store’s manager or whoever used them last might have left them somewhere or taken them on a break. So, unless that person puts the shared keys back, their colleagues might have to scour the store or breakroom to find them.
      3. More than one customer is waiting for their product. Even when a store has multiple shared keys customers are still stuck waiting for designated staff with a key to show up and hand the goods over to them.
      4. A manager might have the only set of keys in the store. Many retailers find it the most effective way to combat shrinkage. I agree it’s a valid concern. After all, in 2017, retailers experienced 1.44% inventory shrinking.
      5. The cost of lost keys and re-keying might be an issue too. Having one set of keys eliminates the need for changing locks and taking other measures due to the high turnover rate, for example, only because the alternative exposes the store to more shrinkage.

    Unfortunately, the above reasons affect more than just customers. From conversations with store managers, I know that many spend as much as 2 hours per day responding to calls for keys. A frustrating situation for both the manager, their employees and especially their customers.

    But what to do? Embrace technology. Use it to empower employees with access to products while preventing theft and shrinkage even more.

    Empowering Employees Reduces Waiting Times, Increases Customer Satisfaction and the IoT Technology Makes the Process Seamless and Secure.

    Here’s how.

    For consumer electronics retailers, long customer waiting times occur because of a single factor – Limited access to retail cabinet keys.

    Employees cannot assist customers in real-time to hand them the product they want. Many consumers must wait for the manager to open the retail cabinet for them. Or hang around until the staff finally locates the keys and can assist them.

    Such situations often happen due to a lack of any means to measure and track individual key usage to ensure security, accountability and prevent theft.

    The solution is to use technologies like IoT to help retailers with a no-compromises approach to solving this problem.

    When every staff member can access the goods, the store and its employees can provide immediate customer service. But its effect goes beyond having happy customers.  Staff feels empowered, less frustrated and more appreciated, job satisfaction soars, and retention improves significantly.

    RFID technology is a good example of how we can empower employees while maintaining the right controls to drive accountability.  IoT technologies like RFID allow for the ease and speed customers expect and provide the accountability that asset protection requires.  RFID keys are configurable, low-cost, and assignable to each employee.  Think about the last time you checked into a hotel, how quickly they keyed a card for your room.  Imagine that for your staff and customers, only more secure.  The RFID technology allows the manager to track and configure keys for each employee.  RFID allows for real-time monitoring and tracking so accountability is built into the workflow.  Management has the visibility they need on their staff’s activity to reduce theft while employees are empowered, shortening customer wait times.  New IoT technology solutions like MTI Connect enable retailers to stop making trade offs between customers and employees and start solving issues for both.  Solving this problem doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game between employees and customers.  Retailers that adopt smart retail solutions will have the opportunity to create amazing customer experiences in store and at the same time boost job satisfaction among employees.   Find out more about smart retail.

    About Matt Vallone

    Matt is a senior leader with over 15 years of experience focused on developing hardware and software, leading strategy, business development, and managing teams.  Matt has helped establish products and market fit for businesses launching new technology initiatives for retail.