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Embracing Omni-Channel Retailing? …Don’t forget to Answer the Phones.

Embracing Omni-Channel Retailing? …Don’t forget to Answer the Phones.

Wikipedia defines Omni-Channel retailing as providing a “seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels.” For many retailers, this includes ensuring a consistent experience from the Web to mobile and Wi-Fi-enabled devices to the brick-and-mortar store. But what about the phones? What’s the experience for customers who call in to your brick-and-mortar stores, and what can you do to improve it – increasing sales in the process?

While VoIP adoption is increasing rapidly, many retailers today have not made the switch, and those that have aren’t taking full advantages of the customer service features it can provide. I was recently visiting a customer, a well-known fashion retailer, who was looking for ways to reduce telecommunications costs. Costs were already low, as the retailer had only one traditional phone line per location in all of its spots across the country. Calls are answered by available staff, and there is no IVR system in place for routing or handling calls during busy hours. In our meeting with the IT department, we were informed that they were making a recommendation to senior management to forego VoIP as they could not justify the costs relative to their current solution.

We presented a different approach: rather than looking at the project purely as cost savings, why not assess the ROI of the overall business opportunity? Prior to the meeting, we had spent time in two of their stores to identify call patterns and talk with local store management regarding how calls were being handled. The results surprised them, and us…

We learned that a typical store only receives about 10 calls a day.  90% of those calls fell into three categories:  1) Directions to the store, 2) Request for store hours, and 3) Requests to make sure a certain item was in stock. Obviously, all three could result in a sale. More significantly, if four or more customers were in a store, the phone would go unanswered. The customer would hang up without getting what they needed.

With plain old telephone service (POTS), retailers get little to no information on what’s happening with inbound calls. How many calls does each store get? How many do they miss? When do call volumes peak? With a hosted VoIP solution, retailers get access to detailed call reporting as well as customer service features such as the ability to forward unanswered calls to a central location. For example, restaurant chain California Pizza Kitchen has deployed VoIP to take phone orders centrally, which are then fulfilled by their local restaurants. (Read the California Pizza Kitchen case study.)

In the case of the fashion retailer, switching to VoIP would also allow them to take advantage of their existing call center, which has the ability to perform inventory look-ups. With an average in-store sale of $140, the VoIP solution quickly became viable from an ROI perspective. The customer wins because they get their questions answered quickly. The stores win because they can spend more time with customers. The business wins because they improve customer service and increase sales.

EarthLink can help you to develop your “Voice Channel” as part of an overall Omni-Channel strategy. Contact us for a consultation, or learn more about our retail solutions and voice services, which include hosted voice and SIP trunking.


About Greg Griffiths

Greg Griffiths
Greg Griffiths is the Vice President of Marketing for EarthLink, where he’s responsible for driving the company’s go to market initiatives for the mid-market / enterprise business unit. Prior to EarthLink, Greg was VP of Marketing for New Edge Networks, a leader in IP-based WAN network services acquired by EarthLink in 2006. At New Edge, Greg led the company’s retail industry strategic focus, and had overall responsibility for all aspects of marketing including branding, communications, demand generation, and channel strategy. Prior to that, Griffiths held executive positions with Eschelon Telecom and Enhanced Telemanagement. Griffiths is a graduate of Washington State University with a degree in marketing and has served as an adjunct instructor.