How back-end automation can boost the front-line retail customer experience
Photo by iStock.com
There's a big focus on in-store and front-of-house retail customer experience and for good reason. The connection and interaction with the consumer are vital to building brand loyalty and ensuring the consumer returns to the retail environment.
But in many cases a retailer may hone in on the front-line of the retail customer experience to the detriment of the critical back-end infrastructure and operations strategy that supports the front-end experience.
Simply, as one expert explains, retailers must invest as much upfront as back-end innovation to ensure a rewarding, seamless and satisfying retail customer experience.
Gearing up for the big season
The investment strategy is critical as retailers shore up everything from staffing to inventory as the big holiday retail season comes into sight once back-to-school shopping is off the consumer's mind.
One key strategic focus should be on efficiency — using tools and technology for more cost-effective manpower operations — and on ensuring the frontline of the retail experience — the store associate — is primed and excited to ensure a shopper finds and takes home what they're looking to buy. And that's true for the entire retail segment, from food stores to apparel and fashion to home improvement.
"Every retailer is focused on delivering an exemplary in-store customer experience and are investing heavily in new customer experience (CX) technologies," Tim Grabacki, director of product management at Cummins Allison, told Retail Customer Experience in an email interview.
Today's retail customer experience technologies are wide ranging, from beacons and point-of-sale systems to mobile apps and all play into more personalized in-store experience.
"But, what retailers often forget is that what's going on 'behind the curtain,' so to speak, can impact the customer experience as much as what's happening on the store floor," noted Grabacki.
Operations behind the curtain include everything from ensuring a fast quick purchase interaction to ensuring product supply is strong.
A key factor to focusing both on the front end of CX, and the back end, is identifying potential automation capabilities that frees up time and resources for the front-end CX focus.
One example Grabacki provided involves automating cash operations as cash management in a busy retail environment can quickly get out of hand -- in terms of labor hours.
"Automating manual processes in the cash office means that employees and managers are free to provide customers with a higher standard of service and support the customer experience strategies that retailers are investing in," he said.
A good first step
And when big retail shopping seasons — such as the impending holiday season — hit the cash management challenge grows exponentially. By automating cash management retailers can lift time-consuming tasks off store associates, which provides more time for in-store customer interaction — a key element in developing a strong customer experience.
"Retailers should evaluate if the cash management solution in place supports automation and efficiency – as well as addresses potential security issues and decreases overall operational costs," advises Grabacki.
For the smaller to mid-size retailer this may require working with a technology partner, he added, as it involves evaluation and potential solution upgrades.
"Retailers often need a partner that provides fast, local service and support is also critical as they can't afford downtime in the cash office due to maintenance issues," he said.
A quick example of cash management automation could be as simple as using enhanced check and currency scanner technology which can also help a retailer count and balance cash and coins quicker, making for a quicker deposit process. Such tools can cut the time it takes to count and balance cash drawers, establish tills and print reconciliation receipts. It can also eliminate errors inherent in manual count approaches, he noted.
All that time saved can be used on front-end customer experience efforts.
"Automating cash handling in the cash office is not only a best practice to support front-of-store CX efforts, but it's also an ideal way to reduce operational costs within the retail store," said Grabacki, noting labor is one of the highest costs for any retailer. An employee, he noted, can spend up to 15 hours weekly just handling cash-related tasks.
"Automating currency processing can dramatically reduce the amount of time employees spend handling cash. Our recent research indicates retailers can save up to 89 percent of counting time using automation technology. This allows retailers to end shifts on time and cut overtime costs." It also allows retailers to put those hours on front-end retail customer experience efforts."
Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.www