I’ve worked with retailers for nearly 30 years, and for the past 10 years I’ve heard retailers talk about how important the customer experience is as they try to address what I am calling the last mile of the omnichannel challenge – where customer, meets store. Well I call BS. Because I went into a store the other day, asked an associate to help me find a product and they looked at me blankly for a minute and then asked me to pull out my own phone and find it within the store’s app myself. That was a bad customer experience and sadly not uncommon. Talk to any retailer, “an improved customer experience” is an acknowledged corporate goal, but how many would claim to have achieved it?
Was my experience yesterday the fault of the associate’s? No! It was the retailer’s fault. They have not empowered their associates to help me. If they could find the answer faster than I could, I know they would have. But they stood there helpless and unempowered.
There was a news article the other day that made me part proud and part bewildered. Kip Tindell and Sharon Tindell, the husband-and-wife duo that helped found The Container Store and run the company for nearly 40 years, are retiring in August 2019. The article headline, in Retail TouchPoints , read “Retiring Container Store Founders Kip And Sharon Tindell’s Employee-First Legacy.” The article continued to expand on their signature employee-first culture, which has put it on numerous “best places to work” lists. And this is where my pride enters in, the article continued…
Beyond the culture, the retailer has built the company based on enterprise-wide communication. Voice-controlled wearable technology facilitates real-time interactions between employees in-store as well as between stores and the corporate office via Theatro. The addition was designed to improve employee-to-employee communication across all stores, streamline the BOPIS experience, boost efficiency and foster a “heads up” customer service experience, emphasizing eye contact between the associate and the customer.
“The Container Store is legendary for how they engage the staff,” said Kevin Graff, President of retail management consulting firm Graff Retail in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “They stopped taking a look at staff as an expense, and they look at staff as an asset that they have to invest in. We’re not just talking about money, we’re talking about time, resources, training programs and better scheduling practices.”
The Container Store is amazing- I’m a big fan. There truly is a higher level of customer service when you enter their stores in comparison to other retailers. And that’s what bewilders me – why have other retailers not truly embraced the employee-first culture? The fact is that engaged and empowered associates translate into better customer service experiences that equate to more sales revenue. It’s a win-win.
We have a vision here at Theatro, we imagine a world where every hourly employee is able to intelligently answer any customer question, even on their first day. Because that’s what associates are able to do when they are empowered by our technology. John Thrailkill, EVP of IT at the Container Store said it best “I would absolutely recommend Theatro to others and frankly I would question [retail] executive leaders that are not seriously considering them.”
There you go. The gauntlet’s been thrown. It’s up to retailers to pick it up, call me, and enter the future of retail and begin to truly execute the omnichannel experience for your customers.