Avaya's new In-Store Connect and Video Assist solutions are the latest tools that are incrementally enabling the long-promised but slowly being delivered integration of the retail channels: in-person, contact center, and the web.
This movement promises to deliver high quality customer-retaining/attracting service, better knowledge of customers to provide services in accordance with their value while lowering costs i.e. true retail CRM: which is what the retail sector desperately needs in this tough economy.
Just as customers switch between communications channels, choosing the ones that meets their needs at the time, they flip between sales channels for that reason. Companies must be there to provide effective service efficiently.
Unfortunately there has been, and still is, gaps in the linkages. For example, customers should be able to seamlessly find out whether their local store has an item in stock by going online or through a speech/IVR application, just as they can obtain that information when shopping on and through the website.
Inventory is inventory. If that outlet has the goods they seek then they should buy it online, the sales credited to the store, and the sales staff alerted that the customer will be picking it up. Returns can be handled the same way. No more wasting money on postage.
Such applications can save a lot of aggravation, fuel, and emissions through no more scurrying from store to store or making phone calls to harried sales staff to buy hot items. They can therefore help to guarantee smiles while minimizing frowns.
At the same time retailers need to integrate their contact centers with their stores by using presence-based routing tools and multimodal workforce management solutions to obtain increased efficiency from both workforces. Calls and contacts would go to floor and counter sales staff if contact center agents were not available.
There is both a certain amount of predictability and randomness in both contact center customer service and order entry, and in store visits that can be reasonably planned for and employee teams optimized to meet needs. Retailers can ill-afford to have idle staff in either environment.
Yes, finding the dollars and time in enabling such tools and practices may be hard in this economy. Then again, losing customers, sales, and the opportunities for saving may be harder.