Retail sales in December dipped after what was a poor Christmas period. This – coupled with administration for several famous names including HMV and Jessops – paints a bleak picture, although there are some high street success stories and the sector is still a good area for resellers to focus on.
Retail players must be customer-centric, with everything geared towards improving customer experience. Winning over consumers is quicker than trying to win business customers. So every element of the customer experience should be wholly positive, and this should be reflected in retailers' IT strategy.
Contact centres are important for all businesses, but they are even more crucial in B2C. Consumer experience in this area goes a long way to shaping opinions of the company as a whole, and opinions can today be more easily shared using social networking platforms.
This is where resellers come in.
Unified communications is one potential offering that can fulfil many business needs for retail companies.
There is an opportunity to overhaul legacy systems too. Often, they are dominated by telephony – yet customer habits have changed when it comes to communication channels, and that means contact centres should adapt too.
Consumers want to get in touch from any device and medium, be it email, Twitter or through a form on a website. Each thread of interaction should also be joined up, so when an agent answers a customer phone call, he or she knows instantly that it is about an email from the day before.
IT resellers should seize the initiative and educate retailers about these benefits.
Tablets in store can be used to check stock levels and order online, allowing for self service and making it easier for consumers to buy.
Many top retailers are implementing reserve-and-collect services that allow customers to have goods set aside for them to pick up at a suitable time. All this is made possible through unified communications.
An on-premise centre can cause serious financial strain for some companies. Cloud computing can help here, enabling easier scaleability and agents to work remotely.
As well as the high initial capital investment, an on-site contact centre can massively drain IT and operational resources. They can also be costly to upgrade.
This is a great time to contact new business leads in the sector and show them how their problems can be solved. The retail sector is one that can be markedly improved by innovative and tailored technology. The channel should be reaping the rewards.
Tamsin Daly is head of contact centre practice at Intrinsic Technology
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