Does Contact Center Tech Translate to Physical Stores?

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WHAT WAS MY favorite job as a teenager? Wow, thanks so much for asking!

I was a retail customer service gal for most of my teen years. I did it all: I was a grocery store clerk (#4011 for bananas, #4040 for plums), I worked at the mall, and I did stints at two local pharmacies. But my favorite was the summer I worked at Blockbuster. We got 10 free rentals a week (!!), plus access to new releases one week early. I think it was my family’s favorite job as well. And who could blame them? New releases were $6.14 for two nights—it adds up! One thing I don’t miss, though? Six straight hours listening to the same five movie trailers on repeat. Ugh.

Now, it’s been many moons since I’ve worked in retail stores—hey, no counting!—but on occasion, the tech ecosystem that supports contact center agents will overlap with technology strategies for in-store reps, and I get all nostalgic for the good old days.

So the big question: Do contact center technologies have practical applications in brick-and-mortar stores?


Oh, were you hoping for something a bit more definitive? I suppose that’s a reasonable expectation. Well, then, let’s explore a couple of contact center technologies that come into play here, and I will weigh in with a very official (and memorable) “Christina’s Contact Center 4 In-Store Relevance Score,” or CCC4ISR Score for short!


There was a time where digital was digital and everything else was…not. Then the pandemic (apologies for the P-word) hit, and things changed real fast. Some companies pulled in-store staff into the contact center to meet increased customer demand in chat or messaging, and others used chat to support “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS—honestly not a great acronym either) use cases. Some brands have toyed with having in-store staff support chat or messaging channels during slow times, but it’s tricky to make that work. If a customer pops in, they’ll have to stop chatting with the other customer to prioritize the one in front of them.

Because of that snag, I give this one 3/5—still relevant for bridging the digital and physical gap through conversational commerce but lacks genuine in-store applicability.


I’ve seen both text- and voice-enabled versions of this proposed for in-store representatives, and I can see some of the appeal. Teenage Christina could have absolutely benefited from an AI application that deciphered customers’ vague movie descriptions: “Hey AI, what’s the movie where Sandra Bullock drives a bus really fast?”

So yes, in-store representatives could benefit from instant access to the information that could help them do their jobs more effectively. This one, though, is all about the execution. Should these applications be speech-enabled, perhaps accessed through a headset? I’m a bit skeptical, given how challenging it is to get decent transcription accuracy when you’re not standing in the middle of a busy store: “Sorry, Christina, we don’t have any movies about Santa’s bulldog.” Great, thanks.

You’ll want to embed this assistance in the flow of natural work. For Blockbuster Christina, that would have needed to be a mobile app that I could have accessed while helping clients around the store. For a grocery clerk, that might be directly in their point-of-sale console.

I give this one an optimistic 4/5, with thoughtful solution design. But yappy and inaccurate headset assistants get -100/5. Don’t question my math!

As always, though, if you want to know how best to enable your in-store reps? Ask them!

There’s no one at your company who knows more about the job and its challenges than the people doing it. 

Christina McAllister is senior analyst, Forrester Research, covering customer service and contact center technology, strategy, and operations.

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