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omnichannelMore and more luxury and fashion brands are using omni-channel retailing to maximize their brand exposure and increase purchasing opportunities for their customers. For omni-channel to work successfully, the brand message needs to be consistent across all consumer touch points, including in-store, online, mobile apps, social networking, etc. In order to deliver a seamless customer experience, sales associates will need a new level of training in technology, product and processes.

The luxury sales associate who is navigating the new omni-channel enterprise will need the following skills:

  • Interpersonal skills: The role of the sales associate is changing. Previously, a sales associate was someone who provided information. Now customers can use technology to find the information they need. This means sales associates have a broadened opportunity to facilitate customer engagement. In a luxury environment personalized service can address nuanced problems outside the scope of technology.
  • Analytical skills: With increased availability of customer data and product information, sales associates will need critical thinking skills to better analyze data, make customer recommendations, and provide insight on purchasing trends back to the enterprise.
  • Technology skills: Train employees to enhance the self-service technology customers are using in store. Customer service and sales personnel should be adept at using the technology to offer style recommendations, assist with sizing and tailoring, and arrange for purchase through the customer’s most comfortable channel. Interestingly, 66 percent of luxury consumers are more willing to interact with a sales associate equipped with a mobile device according to Adam Silverman, principal analyst at Forrester Research, San Francisco.

66 percent of luxury consumers are more willing to interact with a sales associate equipped with a mobile device

These skills are relevant not only to in store associates, but for call centers, online chat representatives and digital teams as well. When a customer asks if a certain store has a specific item, the online chat representative should be able to find and relay the answer quickly.

Of course, the technology infrastructure and enterprise processes must also support the omni-channel customer experience. As customers enter a store, sales associates should be notified and advised on how to best assist. Employees should be able to access customer profiles to better customize interactions. Mobile technology should be an extension of what they’re already doing, such as checking inventory or ordering product for customers. Associates should be able to easily look up what’s available and expedite delivery to the customer, whether the item is available online only or at another location.

It’s important to remember, if the processes are broken, all the training in the world won’t help. I recently received a coupon from a well-known retailer. The coupon was valid only for in store purchases. The item I wanted could only be ordered through the brand’s website. The online chat representative advised me to bring the coupon to the store and have an associate order the item for me and apply the coupon there. The rep clearly demonstrated knowledge of how to navigate their omni-channel process, but the process itself was flawed. Despite the well-trained representative, the broken omni-channel process made for a disappointing customer experience.