The recession hasn't been particularly kind to the retail sector thus far, but Avaya, the Basking Ridge, N.J.–based provider of contact center solutions, believes it has two industry-specific solutions that can improve the customer experience -- and bottom line -- that so many stores are now seeking.
The two offerings, In-Store Connect and Video Assist, look to utilize both the audio and visual channels to help improve the way retail employees interact with customers wandering up and down store aisles. "These applications are enabling retailers to make their existing associates more efficient and effective," explains Daryl Page, Avaya's managing director of retail and hospitality.
The In-Store Connect application is a compilation of technologies from Avaya, Motorola, and Indyme Solutions:
- Avaya's Internet Protocol (IP) telephony platform, phones, and custom applications;
- Motorola's CA50 VoIP-enabled wireless scanner; and
- Indyme Solutions' paging, escalation, and reporting technologies.
By utilizing a combination of mobile devices and IP phones placed throughout the store, workers can communicate with one another using text messages and phone calls, obviating the need for headsets, walkie-talkies, separate Wi-Fi phones, and pagers. Avaya executives say that this reduces costs associated with managing multiple lines of communication.
Page says that a specific client implementation led to the creation the productized version of In-Store Connect. "A retail customer wanted to streamline the cashier phone-and-paging system it had already," he recalls. "This way it could be a more streamlined, cost-effective solution."
Video Assist is an attempt to provide consumers the opportunity to find out more information about a potential purchase and solve issues they have with a product by connecting with the store's contact center, thereby accessing subject-matter experts. "Picture a customer coming up to a self-service kiosk, beginning to go through menus, looking at information -- and at some point needing assistance," explains Leslie Levy, solutions manager for Avaya. "There may be no workers around to help but [that customer] can get live assistance right away with this solution."
Video Assist also frees up sales professionals to focus on other potential buyers. "Once a customer has selected a product [to purchase], this is a way to hand off the final sale," Page says. "The application can handle activations, service contracts, or setting up other options. This frees up salespeople to sell other products."
Levy explains that, because many retailers already utilize Avaya for their communications needs, the pitch to simply optimize the use of systems already in place is a compelling one. "Part of this whole value proposition is making the most out of what the customer has," Levy says. "Many of these companies already have Motorola and Avaya. By making multiple uses of singular systems or devices, it's a very cost-effective way of going about these deployments."
Nick Lippis, publisher of The Lippis Report, a resource for information technology and network business professionals, calls Avaya's cooperation with both Motorola and Indyme for the In-Store Connect offering is a huge competitive differentiator. "The packaging and integration work is not matched in the industry," he says. "This focuses on improving the customer experience by giving store workers access to communications to answer customers' questions and escalate their concerns."
He also says that Video Assist can deliver more knowledge to consumers without requiring the addition of more employees, a benefit to the bottom line. "It's a way to bring a lot of expertise to remote retail stores without the cost of employing full-time product experts."
Looking ahead, Page believes that while these two applications are specifically geared to the retail space, they can be tweaked to aim at other verticals, particularly the hospitality field. "For a hotel staff, they can quickly page for getting more towels to a certain room," he says. "There's the presence aspect, finding out if there is hotel staff available, and if so, who is closest to help."
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