Guest Column | August 19, 2019

DIY Retail: The Self-Service CX Debate

By Alexandra Frith, Retail Pro International

What Your Merchant IT Clients Need To Keep Up With Demand For The Best Customer Experience

Oh, that elusive “frictionless” customer experience.

So many retailers are on the hunt for this.

Often, they look to self-service solutions for help.

But the totally automated experience is likely to seldom please every shopper.

And while self-service can be part of the solution, many retailers have learned that customers do not always want or prefer the do-it-yourself model.

Reinvesting Self-Service Savings

Self-service technology can substantially lower front-line staffing costs.

Shoppers identify Amazon as coming from self-service roots, and consequently do not expect much personal attention at the Amazon Go grocery stores.

But those costs can be reinvested in the business, either in more technology to improve service or product selection, or by further boosting efficiency by training former cashiers and having them function as associates in other service-dominant areas.

Moving some of the customer experience toward automation can help increase the number of customer touchpoints -- thereby increasing revenue of accessories and other items.

Adding an Amazon Go option of fast shopping using an app and sensors might also provide exceptional experience.

Different Needs For Different Occasions

From the customers’ view, a frictionless experience can differ, and depends upon a number of factors.

One factor is shoppers’ goals. Those can change daily.

Not all customers always want to check out the same way, every time.

Someone who is in a rush one day might need assistance during another visit.

Grabbing a snack at a convenience store may be deemed “frictionless” if selection was good and service speedy.

But when selecting shoes at a department store, a high level of personal attention may be desired to ensure a “frictionless” experience.

Sometimes more associate help, rather than less, can provide a smoother transaction.

However, traditional brick and mortars need to provide customer service in the most valuable ways, which might not be at the cash register, but on the floor and in the aisles instead.

Best Of Both Worlds

Providing cashiers as well as self-service not only lets customer choose how they pay, but also frees up some associates — who might otherwise be manning a till — to assist customers needing help.

The best experience is the one that seems personally tailored on an as-needed basis, rather than one that is designed to fit everyone, all the time.

About The Author

One part executive, one part brand geek, three parts innovation fanatic, Alexandra is a strategist, a thought leader, and someone who is really good at cracking the business growth nut. With expertise in brand story development, customer engagement, and retail technology innovation, Alexandra spent last 15 years standing up tech startups, re-establishing relevance for mature brands and creating strategic solutions that hone market relevance and position businesses for growth.