Retail stores need to have an effective method of communicating operational issues and requests. The relevant information needs to be captured to address the request, and the information must be sent to the appropriate person to ensure a speedy resolution. Many retail companies rely on e-mail or voice mail to communicate store issues and requests. While these options can appear to be inexpensive, the additional follow up phone calls and e-mail messages required to capture all of the request details add unnecessary cost and time.
Some companies deploy call centers to take live telephone calls, and although a well trained call center can capture the entire request in a single phone call, the costs of ongoing training and management can be prohibitive.
More and more companies are realizing the benefits of an automated web and/or telephone based system that can be configured and customized to capture the perfect request.
What is the perfect request?
Any new solution to capture store issues and requests must be so easy to use that no formal training is required. This starts by providing one place to go for all request types. The request must capture all necessary details so that follow up communication is not required to get the job started. It would also be great if the request process could help the store user avoid the request altogether. And finally, the request can only be created if the requester has access to the device needed to create the request.
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy
Providing training to store personnel across all locations for a complicated request system is not an option. If the alternative is e-mail, voice mail or a call center, an automated request system must be just as easy to use, and maybe even easier. The following features help realize this goal.
One place to go
Requests from store locations may span a wide range of issues, such as facility maintenance requests to be performed by a third party contractor, or merchandising questions that are handled by the corporate merchandising department. Traditionally, store managers are given lists of e-mail addresses or phone numbers to contact each department or vendor directly. This can lead to confusion and, worse yet, requests being ignored because they are going to the wrong company or department.
Retail companies are starting to see the benefits of consolidating all of these request types into a single request system. All a store manager needs to remember is how to access a single system that assists them through the process of submitting a request, and automatically directs the request to the appropriate person.
Capture the details
How many times have you received a request that only included part of the problem? So you pick up the phone try to contact the requester only to be connected to their voice mailbox. Obviously not the best use of your time.
For the request process to be effective, the requester must be prompted for all of the information required to satisfy the request, yet be simple enough to use so the request is created quickly and the user can get back to their job. And this must be true for every type of request expected from the store.
This can be effectively accomplished using a wizard based approach that walks the requester through a set of questions allowing them to answer using multiple choice options. In some cases free form entry is also required (for example, entering the property number of a POS terminal).
When all of the information is included in the request, not only can the issue be resolved quickly and effectively, but information is available for reporting and analysis to better understand the overall process.
Avoiding the request
It could be argued that the best store request is no request at all. In some cases, it is possible to provide store personnel with the information needed to solve a problem themselves, or to realize that a request is not necessary.
For example, a troubleshooting wizard can walk a store manager through a step-by-step process to solve a problem such as resetting a circuit breaker. Or information about a delay in a marketing program can avoid a large number of requests when a promotion kit doesn’t arrive when expected.
This can be taken a step further by providing training opportunities for the requesters. For example, if a request is created indicating a problem with a coffee grinder, a video showing the proper way to calibrate the grinder could be presented to the requester.
For some companies web access may not be available, and an automated phone system is the best solution. For other companies, a mobile solution may be the most convenient option. And in many cases, having all three options available provides the best solution.
In addition to the primary means of access to capture store requests, it is a good idea to have a backup option. It would be difficult to report a problem with a computer system if the only way to create a request is by using the computer that is no longer working.
Many retailers are realizing the benefits of providing a standard method and process for stores to submit issues and requests. Successful store communication systems must include a solution where requests are easy to submit, the important information is captured right away, and the request is sent to the right person. Effective issue and request processing results in time savings, quick resolutions, and stores with superior support.
Please feel free to comment if you can think of other ways to make the request process better, and stay tuned for a future article diving into the subject of “What happens after the request has been submitted?”.