Experticity, NCR Collaborate on Customer Service

The kiosk-based system provides video access to live customer support.

Experticity is looking to help retailers offer live, in-store support for customers and employees by deploying its customer service distribution software on the NCR EasyPoint 42 self-service kiosk.

Experticity's offering provides a real-time video link through a back-end server to remotely located support personnel. The NCR kiosk is being used as an interface for customers and store associates to conduct live interactions with those support personnel. Experticity and NCR announced their joint system Jan. 7.

According to Experticity President and CEO D.L. Baron, live video-based store support enables retailers to offer improved support for customers than they normally get from stores.

"The idea was in response to the needs of consumers," Baron said. "We looked at IHL [Group] data which indicated that 28 percent of retail sales are lost because the customer couldn't get help. Consumers are getting more frustrated in dealing with high store associate turnover and uninformed and ill-informed frontline staff, if they can find them. Due to demographics, there will simply not be young people available to staff those frontline positions in the future."

Customer experience expert Vahe Katros, president of Vahe Katros Consulting, said that while live video-based store support can be beneficial, it doesn't apply to every retailer's customer service problems.

"Information in the store is one of the key brand attributes of retailing, but it varies by retail sub-vertical," Katros said. "In some sub-verticals, customers can live with a self-serve user experience. In others, where there is product complexity or product integration concerns, you need to invest in people, and train those people."

In particular, Katros said big-box retailers may be among the first adopters of live video-based store support technology. He pointed to Experticity client Staples as an example.

"Their customers are familiar with self-service, but on some occasions, because of product complexity, a customer may want some help," he said. "Staffing to meet those moments of truth can be costly. From an experience point of view, I think Staples' customers won't mind using the kiosk because they won't mind being overheard and their customers are probably heavy users of computers. I'd look at those categories first regarding adoption."

Katros also said that this type of solution won't be successful unless IT providers conduct thorough product research and review.

"Any solution that touches the customer will need to go through testing and adaptation. That needs to be a core competency of the players in the space," he said.

The Experticity solution runs on a Windows XP 2005 user application platform and Windows 2003 Server platform, and supports IIS (Internet Information Services), SQL and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) servers. The NCR EasyPoint 42 kiosk runs on an Intel Pentium 2.4 GHz or Intel Celeron 2.0 GHz processor and has a 10/100-Base T Ethernet interface.