Better Technology, Better Employees
This is where putting your frontline employees first comes into play. You can certainly use technology to offer your customers self-service options, but why not focus just as much or more on using technology to enable your employees to provide better customer service? A store associate who is already familiar with your product assortment, distribution schedule and customer service policies can do far more armed with a PDA or informational kiosk than a customer who possesses little or none of this knowledge. In addition, self-service technologies can greatly reduce the time and effort required to recruit and train employees and perform basic HR functions.Will there be associates who still have bad attitudes and don't bother to upgrade their customer service skill sets despite your best efforts to provide them with enabling technologies? Of course. But work force reductions based on merit (or lack thereof) will be far less damaging to overall morale than work force reductions based on wholesale replacement of people by machines. So if you are considering a frontline technology upgrade, don't be afraid to put the customer second in your strategic planning. Providing an optimal customer experience may depend on it. Dan Berthiaume covers the retail market for eWEEK. For more, go to the eWEEK retail site.
Once your frontline employees see that you are investing in technologies that will help them do their jobs better rather than eliminate their jobs, their morale should soar. Customers will quickly forget the user interface on a self-service kiosk, but they will long remember a smiling associate who went out of his or her way to answer questions and provide service.