Analyst Corner

Hey Retailers, Don’t Forget The Employees In Your Drive For “Customer Experience”

Categories: Mobile POS

In my previous life I was employed by a company that did a lot of work for the Department of Defense. I was brought into a project that had been up and running for a while, and thousands of man-hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars had already been expended in developing a system to be used by specially trained armed forces personnel. A design review for this system was scheduled for a couple weeks after I came on board.

The day of the design review came, and about 20 people sat down in our conference room. There were government people, corporate and contracts people, and some of the analysts and engineers that designed the system. There was a lot of gray hair in that room, and I was the youngest by a number of years. A giant stack of drawings was on the conference table. The project leader began the briefing, and things were going fine, with a lot of head nodding and very few questions. At one point, however, someone made a statement that pertained to how the operators were going to perform a certain task, and, being still wet behind the ears, I raised my hand and asked, “Excuse me, but how do we know that?” He looked at me like I had three heads, but I continued by saying, “I ask because in this room I see customer people, and contracts people, and design and manufacturing people, but I don’t see any of the operator people.”

You could have heard a pin drop. It was at that moment that everyone in that room realized that all that time and money and effort had been expended without anybody ever bothering to involve the guys that would actually be using the system while bad guys were shooting at them.

I was reminded of this after a trip I made earlier this year to do some store audits. Simply, part of my job is to take a look at the technology retailers actually have in their stores (as opposed to what may appear in the news media). On this occasion, I was checking out the Mobile technology that a well-known department store reportedly used. I had the opportunity to speak with a couple of the store associates and ask their opinions of their Mobile solution. Interestingly, neither of them had the technology on their person.

One of the store associates was a 62 year-old woman who had worked for the company for almost 30 years. She reached behind a counter and showed me the Apple iPod Touch with a 4″ screen that the company had provided for them to use. She made one simple comment about the device that spoke volumes: “I can’t read the screen, so I don’t use this.”

This was not the first time we’ve encountered a situation where store personnel are less than enthusiastic about the technology that they are having to use, and quite often it stems from them not being a part of the process from the beginning. Granted, a retailer can’t query each and every store associate as to their desires, but retailers can be innovative in making the effort to bring their store associates on board. For instance, research that we did earlier this year (please see our study, “Mobile POS: Reaching Escape Velocity, All Systems Go“) shows that not only do only 24% of retailers prefer the 3-5” device size, but less than 10% of them prefer to use the iPod Touch. All this to say, what exactly was it that would cause a retailer to think, “Sixty-two year-old eyes, 4 inch screen….yeah, that’s a good match”?

Oh, by the way, just in case you were wondering, that DoD project from all those years ago led to a resoundingly successful follow-on project. Only this time, we brought the operators in the first day.