By Jordan Socran, email@example.com
Brick-and-mortar retailers have been faced with declining profits due to competition from Internet retailers, as well as declining consumer spending in an uncertain economy. Retailers now find themselves under assault by yet another threat – “Showrooming” – when consumers physically visit a store location, gather product information at the store, to eventually compare products, prices online and purchase the said product online for a lower price. This practice has grown exponentially since the explosion of smartphone technology, which enables consumers to use their mobile device and view pricing information instantaneously. The practice has led to a decrease in physical purchases from brick-and-mortar retailers and allowed online outlets with much lower overhead costs to continue to siphon business. Meanwhile retail locations are paying staff to answer questions about products and educate the consumer, yet can’t lock in the sale.
Fortunately, the problem does have a solution. While the products purchased online and in-store may be exactly the same, brick-and-mortar retailers can differentiate their offerings by providing 24-hour premium technology support. Premium technical support services are already offered by many leading brick-and-mortar retailers. Best Buy has Geeksquad; Costco created Costco Concierge; Staples boasts EasyTech. The premium support provided by these retailers reminds us that consumers continue to patronize these businesses. With very few exceptions, businesses tend to stick to a very traditional and sometimes outdated “one-and-done” transactional approach that fails to capitalize on the growing demand for technology support, which can result in improved customer loyalty and optimized revenue.
The retailers mentioned above recognize the value of the user experience and research indicates expanding retailer services is a worthy investment. A recent Forrester report, “The Business Impact of Customer Experience, 2012,” shows that companies with higher customer experience scores tend to demonstrate and drive higher customer loyalty. Premium technology support can improve the user experience, and address a specific growing need. As consumers adopt more complex technologies and seek support for their connected devices the retailer that is able to help them get the most from their technology and improve their experience post-purchase will ultimately build loyalty and win.
The first step to launching a premium support program is to examine the problem the business is trying to solve. Is showrooming resulting in less traffic to the store, driving costs and impacting revenues? Retailers would best determine this information by reaching out to existing contact centers and “bucketing” the types of calls they receive regarding products and services. Those buckets can then be analyzed and recurring patterns identified.
In parallel, an examination of existing technology must also take place. Is the business able to provide advanced customer support across all its channels whether in-store, online or mobile? Or, will the premium technology support service you want to provide require you to partner with a technology vendor that can help you increase revenues, reduce costs and deepen customer relationships? This is an especially important portion of the process to consider since more than a third of retailers are unable to respond quickly to customer demands due to outdated technology that is not integrated across all channels and services. Premium technology support enabled by a purpose-built technology can provide that one view on the customer to support customer demands and deliver seamless and consistent experience across channels and services.
Companies must then conclude if the best approach to developing its premium technology support service is to “build or buy.” If a retailer has some form of call center support in place, should they use those existing resources? Or, would a retailer be better served by working with a premium technology support provider that can give answers to such fundamental yet difficult questions. The most successful premium technology support providers are the ones that can ultimately deliver the customer experience, provide quality of service and out-of-scope problem resolution, and at the very same time, help businesses lower their support costs. Can the business do all of this on its own?
Only after completing these steps can a retailer properly determine the best course of action for implementing an effective customer support program capable of combating showrooming.
Almost one billion connected devices were shipped last year and that number is expected to double by the second half of the decade. Retailers equipped to deal with the implications of these figures and make necessary changes to their business will be better positioned to expand existing customer relationships, gain new ones and maximize the bottom line. The benefits of offering premium technology support to customers and retailers that recognize this and plan accordingly will undoubtedly fair better than the competition.
Jordan Socran is VP business development at Radialpoint, which helps technology brands grow revenue by creating and managing white-label services businesses. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.